For those who felt that Bonnie Raitt sorely missed her old bassist, Freebo, on her newest album, his presence at her Constitution Hall show last night was reassuring. The presence of other longtime Raitt associates -- guitarist Will McFarlane, drummer Dennis Whitted and keyboardist Marty Grebb -- further dispelled any fears that Raitt had gone Hollywood with her recent Peter Asher-produced record.
Both Raitt and her band came out spitting fire on "Baby I Love You." If possible their version was even funkier than the Aretha Franklin original. As if she had to reassert her blues credentials, Raitt's singing and slide-guitar playing were rawer and rowdier than recent records or shows.
On "The Glow," Raitt arched her back and boomed out the crying lines with a bottomless bellow. Then she leaned forward to stretch the intimate lines into jazz nuances. On John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery," McFarlane's lyrical lead guitar and Freebo's promenading bass were as eloquent as second and third vocals.
Raitt dedicated the sassy Dixieland challenge of "Give It Up" to Karen Silkwood, the nuclear-plant worker who died in an auto crash five years ago yesterday, and to Raitt's colleagues in Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE). She encored with a moving rock-'n'-roll version of John Hall's anti-nuke anthem, "Power."
The show was opened by the Lamont Cranston Band, a seven-man blues group from Minnesota, where Raitt recorded her first album. The band proved its versatility as it segued from a harmonica-wailing, horn-punching version of Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working" to a long, rolling, jazz instrumental. The band's standout was Bruce McCabe; who sang and pounded his piano in the best tradition of Chicago blues legend Otis Spann.