A couple of female legends have come through town recently, leaving me with memories I'll never forget. Bonnie Raitt started off her current tour at Northrop, and Aretha Franklin performed at the Pacer benefit in the new Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium - a beautiful music venue, which I hope will be widely used. Both artists took me back in time, leaving me impressed and refreshed with the strength and freshness of their voices and their work. These ladies, while wildly different, and who taught me so much about love and passion and broken hearts, are sexy and sweet and full of heart. When I look at Bonnie, it's as if time has stood still for her. When I listen to Aretha, I hear the same soul and energy just shining out of her that has always been there. There's a gestalt to these musicians as time goes on - they're bigger than the sum of their parts. Not all artists improve with age: David Crosby and Graham Nash have lost the purity of their voices and their songwriting skills- while Neil Young and Stephen Stills have even more edginess and power to their music. The same is true for Bonnie and Aretha, leaving many of us to reflect as we, and the musicians we love get older, that the quality of our aging is a choice.
Bonnie's Minnesota roots go deep, having recorded her first album here on Lake Minnetonka with Willie Murphy and the Bees a quarter century ago already, and she talked to the Minnesota audience like old friends. At one point, she mused that despite her recent divorce, this is the best time of her life. "Who'd have thought?……" she mused. Her voice itself has never been more beautiful, and her skills on slide guitar are undiminished. She has shared so many stages with so many blues and rock greats that she is a natural performer, seeming not to perform at all. Music is still a passion that pours out of her. Plus - I've never seen a more beautiful set than the one she's traveling with, complex in its simplicity, and fabulously lit. The purpose of a tour is usually to promote an upcoming release, and she showcased her new CD beautifully. The lyrics and her singing of them are from the heart, and the musical themes move from straight ahead blues to world music themes. She sang few of her old songs: some immediately recognizable, and some fresh interpretations.
A month later, the reigning Queen of Soul floated onstage in a lavish floor length flamingo pink satin and black velvet stole, as befits a queen…. Aretha owns the stage. After all this time, her voice is still bigger than her 30 piece orchestra (I counted) which included 3 percussionists, 2 keyboardists, 5 backup singers, a harpist, a row of strings, a row of trumpets and a conductor. Her performance was nearly over before she sang any songs that were not her own hits - an innovative nod to Motown's Four Tops and a reprise of her recent Grammy performance of Pavarotti. Aretha is no slouch in the opera department; the three tenors can sing back up to her anytime. I don't know when I've seen more power onstage. As befits a benefit performance, the crowd was mostly too rich to be cool, and had a little trouble remaining on its feet, though Aretha certainly brought them to their feet several times.
Aretha was my youngest daughter's first real concert experience - the bar is now set pretty high on her concert memories - just as Bonnie Raitt was my first female artist concert memory when she appeared at Northrop in 75. Raitt remembered how that performance had been interrupted by a bomb scare, in which the audience had tumbled out on to the mall, returning to jam after Northrop was found to be bomb-free…. While Aretha isn't a blues artist, the echoes of those southern blues and gospel roots are in her, just as the exploration of African and island themes I heard in Bonnie Raitt's new songs reminded me of her old reggae stuff. Many of the songs in these 2 concerts were like old friends, but in the end, it was these artists themselves, not the songs that were memorable. I came out of their concerts feeling like I was 20 years old and could leap tall buildings with a single bound. After a long winter of not listening to live music, I pondered what many musicians I've interviewed say - that all music is one. Just as I've often thought that all religions are one, in their strengths and weaknesses, and how, for many of us, music is religion, with the power to take us to our higher selves, and maybe finally find a way to understand each other.
Simply click on the cover art to order these CDs NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by Rebecca West, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
For permission to use this review please email Ray Stiles at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can help support this blues website by making a contribution (click on the banner below for details)
Web Hosting & Design:
Web Hosting & Design.
Most affordable web hosting and design services available.
Find out how you can host your current site at Blues On Stage, or how I can help you design your own website!
If you would like your CD reviewed, please send TWO (2) copies, along with promotional material to:
Blues On Stage
PO Box 582983
Minneapolis, MN 55458-2983
E-mail Ray Stiles @ email@example.com with any questions.