Performing Arts

Performing Arts: Reviews of Concerts by Bonnie Raitt and Laura Izibor

Bonnie Raitt was in top form for her show with Taj Mahal at Wolf Trap on Sunday night.
Bonnie Raitt was in top form for her show with Taj Mahal at Wolf Trap on Sunday night. (By Chris Pizzello -- Associated Press)
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

BONNIE RAITT AND TAJ MAHAL

Bonnie Raitt is well known for handpicking and generously showcasing her tour mates. But she couldn't have been more accommodating at Wolf Trap on Sunday night, when she shared the stage with bluesman Taj Mahal, her friend of 40-plus years and her "favorite artist ever."

After an opening set in which Mahal's Phantom Blues Band exuberantly kicked off "The BonTaj Roulet" revue, complete with brass, reeds and evocative set design, Raitt significantly overhauled her show. She engaged in cozy duets and launched a long series of encores that further capitalized on the horn-powered double bill, culminating in a festive mix of newly arranged hits and blues, boogie, soul, reggae and calypso treats.

Of course, being in good company is one thing, being in good voice another. Raitt was in terrific voice, and she knew it. She belted out "Something to Talk About" and other up-tempo tunes in husky, lusty tones, and charged two signature ballads -- "Angel From Montgomery" and "I Can't Make You Love Me" -- with as much as power as poignancy. Even so, her singing didn't overshadow her expert (and extensive) bottleneck guitar work, with its customary bite and resonance.

Fronting a tight band that prominently featured a new recruit -- veteran keyboardist and singer Ricky Peterson -- Raitt joked at one point that her voice keeps getting lower, which is undoubtedly the case. But it's as soulful as ever, perhaps even more so, and the chance to perform alongside Mahal, who had no trouble reinvigorating his hits (or mimicking Howlin' Wolf's deep roadhouse moan), was all the inspiration she needed.

-- Mike Joyce

LAURA IZIBOR

Irish-born singer-of-the-moment Laura Izibor has drawn comparisons to another vocalist who also experienced a meteoric rise a couple of years back: Corinne Bailey Rae. Everyone seems to lump them together simply because they both have adorable accents, curly mops of hair, debut albums that vacillate between exuberance and depression, and singles screaming for inclusion in an hour-long drama.

Actually, come to think of it, the women are pretty similar. But who says every new singer has to be nothing like anyone who came before? At the Birchmere on Sunday night, Izibor sang from her debut, "Let the Truth Be Told," and while her sound and style seemed vaguely familiar, she gave a solid performance.

When Izibor wasn't using her impressive voice to tell ex-boyfriends to get lost ("I Don't Want You Back," "Don't Stay") or uplift the downtrodden ("Shine," "Mmm . . . "), she provided some interesting takes on the traditional love song. On "Gracefully," a new piece that isn't on Izibor's album, she asks her lover to hurry up and dump her already -- and outlines the reasoning in harsh detail. And "The Worst Is Over" is written from the perspective of a woman suffering through listening to one of her friends talk about a bad relationship.

Izibor closed with her radio-iTunes hit "From My Heart to Yours," which, at the moment, is her signature song. In a gutsy move, she gave it a reworking -- and the remix was one of the few moments of the night where she sounded nothing like Bailey Rae: She spliced in segments of "Real Love," so, naturally, she sounded like Mary J. Blige.

-- Sarah Godfrey


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