- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 6, 2004

It was ungodly cold for June on Saturday night, but Bonnie Raitt warmed up a sellout audience at Wolf Trap with some toasty rhetorical barbs, plus an old song called “Your Good Thing (Is About to End),” aimed in the direction of “the guy down the street,” that is, President Bush, who was actually in Paris.

But no matter. We got the message, and felt the heat.

Thankfully, Miss Raitt’s trusty slide guitar was even hotter, as was her great road band — guitarist George Marinelli, drummer Ricky Fataar, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson and keyboardist Jon Cleary, a New Orleans-based songwriter whose “Fool’s Game” was a funky standout on Saturday evening.

Miss Raitt is currently between albums (there was a greatest hits collection last fall, and new material is in the works), so the show was a 90-minute grab-bag of her contemporary hits (“Thing Called Love,” “Something to Talk About,” “Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” etc.) and a few surprise covers, including one of Randy Newman’s satirical “Political Science” and a medley of tunes from blues heroine Sippie Wallace.

More of a stylist than a songwriter herself, Miss Raitt always made sure to identify whose songs she was harvesting, like the Stonesy-gospel take on Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi’s “Hear Me Lord,” the mild pop of Paul Brady’s “Not the Only One” and Richard Thompson’s spine-ticking dirge “Dimming of the Day.”

(Speaking of Mr. Thompson, the Celtic folk virtuoso played a stellar opening set Saturday, receiving a standing ovation that drew him back for an encore.)

After a torching rendition of her signature ballad “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Miss Raitt said she was glad “I’m not in the middle of that” anymore, meaning, we presume, all the heartbreak that went into its recording.

Generously trading the solo spotlight with the boys in the band, Miss Raitt, 54 , was aglow with obvious delight throughout the evening. “What happens to a blues singer when she gets happy?” she asked.

Good question. But after 15 years and counting of renewed popularity, Miss Raitt’s fans don’t seem to be holding the smiles against her.

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