With the booming-drum introduction of her version of Robert Palmer's "You're Gonna Get What's Coming," Bonnie Raitt heralded her new hard-rocking stage act. Unfortunately, some of the emotional sincerity and immaculate phrasing that made Raitt one of pop's finest interpreters has been traded for a nonstop, sexy swagger in a more visceral musical attack.
For example, on an otherwise moving rendition of Eric Kaz' "River of Tears," Raitt's vocals and slide guitar were squashed by a heavy-handed rhythm guitar riff. Still, Raitt was fine and raunchy on Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" and her own "A Little Respect," and the crowded Merriweather Post Pavilion never stopped adoring her for a moment.
Opening was the Red Bank Rockers, a 10-piece band fronted by Springsteen sax man, Clarence Clemmons. Not surprisingly, like Springsteen's E-Street Band, the Red Bank Rockers were grounded in '60s soul styles and featured a similarly rousing orchestrated sound full of endless dramatic starts and stops. Clemmons led the band through Memphis-style instrumental arrangements of "Fever" and "Gimme Some Lovin,' " and featured an impressive soul man, Davey Bourne, on "Try a Little Tenderness" and "Sweet Soul Music."
With little of the originality or inspiration needed to revise their bar-band classicism, the band was just high-spirited fun, which was good enough for an encore.