"The most important line in this song is 'I'm not gonna take it anymore,' " Bonnie Raitt said last night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Raitt was referring to "Three Time Loser," an anti-nuke song. But she could just as well have been describing several other songs she sings in concert.

A woman's struggle for independence has frequently characterized the more personal lyrics Raitt has recorded. "Sugar Mama," "Standing By the Same Old Love" and "Your Real Good Thing" are prime examples, and it was those songs -- each convincingly rendered -- and a couple of surprises (NRBQ's "Me and the Boys" and Elvis' "Big Hunk of Love") that made her concert last night so enjoyable.

It was hard to believe that Raitt and her new band have only been on the road for two days. The playing was often razor-sharp. Guitarist Rick Vito sparred effectively with Raitt's slide guitar on several tunes. Dave Woodford compensated for the absence of Raitt's longtime bassist Freebo by underlining her vocals with surging phrases on a variety of saxophones.

Earlier, the Nighthawks condensed the best of their material into a brief, exhilarating show, highlighted by guitarist Jimmy Thackeray's stroll through the amphitheater while sparks flew on Elvis' "Little Sister."