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Blues singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt performs in concert Sunday at the Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead. Photo by Dave Wallis / The Forum

Review: Bonnie brings the Blues

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variety Fargo,ND 58102
Review: Bonnie brings the Blues
Fargo ND 101 5th Street North 58102

MOORHEAD -  Some artists take a while to find a voice and grow into it. Other artists find their voice fading as their career goes on.


Forty-three years after releasing her self-titled debut, Bonnie Raitt sounded as good as ever, giving fans real a treat with her show at Bluestem Amphitheater Sunday night and giving the venue perhaps its best show to date.

The 64-year-old showed a wide range of influences through her career in her 90-minute set and displayed her chops on the slide guitar and a voice that was as warm as it was weathered. 

When she dedicated a song to all of the mothers, fans knew it would be her 1974 hit, “Angel from Montgomery,” but rather than bring out the tried and true version, she sang the first verse a cappella, giving John Prine’s country classic a new gospel energy.

She stayed close to recorded versions on the newer tunes, giving Randall Bramlet’s bluesy “Used to Rule the World” a funky Bayou vibe and Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” a reggae lift.

But Raitt wasn’t playing it safe. It only took her two songs to deviate from the setlist. She seemed to confuse the band when she jumped onto the piano for “Nick of Time” from her 1989 comeback album of the same name. The keyboards in the song show the song’s age, but Raitt’s soulful voice gave it emotional life.

And it only took her four songs to get political. Saying America was getting into trouble, she played “Help Me Lord” by Zimbabwe artist Oliver Mtukudzi. Later she would dedicate “I Will Not Be Broken” to environmentalist Winona LaDuke who was in the crowd.

“One day, we’ll be powering all of our shows with solar energy,” Raitt quipped. “We don’t need no oil pipeline.”

Raitt wasn’t all political. She dedicated “Something to Talk About” to Sara and Dave for their 10th anniversary and praised opener “Spider” John Koerner and others for showing her that you don’t have to be black to play the blues. Then she launched into Koerner’s “I Ain’t Blue,” which she covered on her debut.

Raitt proved that not only do you not have to be black to have the blues, but also that guitar god status isn’t reserved just for men, as she and the band ripped through the roadhouse boogie “I Believe I’m in Love with You.”

Raitt seemed genuinely thrilled about Bluestem as a venue and appreciative of the crowd’s warm response.

“Man, this is a heck of a site,” she said.

She thanked the crowd again before her encore, then dedicated “I Can’t Make You Love Me” to all of those with a broken heart. It fit perfectly not only as a show-stopping encore, but seated with the stage lit low, Mike Finnigan’s jazzy piano parts made the melancholy song feel like it could’ve been from a musical.

Raitt didn’t have to make the crowd love her, the 1,910 in attendance loved her without the prompting.