Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples
Enmore Theatre, April 3
It doesn't take long to fall for Bonnie Raitt. And by that I mean about two and a half minutes, or about halfway through Down to You, a relatively new song in a 40-year career.
With its bar-room piano rolling you around the oor, its pungent slide guitar poking you in the chest, and its deant but untroubled vocals walking past you with a wink-and-a-smile glance over the shoulder, there's instant energy and verication of Raitt's opening words. "[Support act] Mavis Staples lifts you up; we're gonna grease you up."
"How good is this?" you think a bit later, as Dylan's Million Miles gets all slinky and Raitt's own Come to Me grooves up. I need a beer, you add (and you don't even drink beer), and maybe some ribs. Denitely some ribs. Jeez, you worry, at this rate you'll be one fat bastard if the band – keyboardist Mike Finnigan, Hutch Hutchinson on bass, Ricky Fataar on drums and George Marinelli on guitar – are this good all night. And they are. Bugger.
And then, as an afterthought – as an idea that has added piquancy for coming to you in the same room where you saw the Rolling Stones perform the best gig they'd ever done in Australia – isn't this just the kind of song, and just the kind of performance you wish they still did?
Anyway, let's not waste time talking about the tired; let's talk instead about how Raitt's new ballad, Not Cause I Wanted to, is tender and tough in equal measure, or how the older favourite, Love Sneakin' up on You, sneaks in clavinet squawks into hip-propelled soul. Let's talk about how in a quality band, Raitt's potent but effortless guitar-playing still grabs your attention with its control and passion.
And let's talk about how her generosity and grace seems boundless – to the musicians around her who were all given space to shine; to the writers she covers (including, tonight, Gerry Rafferty); to Staples, whose grainy, rugged gospel voice had opened the night with awed but rousing entertainment; to us in the audience who are in no more hurry than she is to leave as the clock nears midnight.
Yeah, she's all right that Bonnie Raitt. Class. Quality.