Bonnie Raitt. At the Arlington Theatre, Tuesday, February 14.
This Valentine’s Day, while restaurants around town were, no doubt, teeming with couples wining and dining, the legendary Bonnie Raitt took stage at the Arlington, pouring her love into a memorable performance. Raitt opened the night with a bang, playing three impressive songs from her most recent album Souls Alike. The politically charged “Unnecessarily Mercenary” set the energy and tone of the show’s start, followed by the spiritually intense “God Was in the Water.” Taking a moment to remark on the unfortunate result of the presidential election, she then moved the crowd with the defiant “I Will Not Be Broken.” Ever aware of the political and social impact that fame brings, Raitt frequently uses her music to speak her mind and her recent show was no different. Living up to these ideals, Raitt spoke passionately about activism, proudly citing the tour’s use of Biodiesel fuel as proof of how ideas can be put into action. Equally passionate about matters of the heart, Raitt also had a lot to say about relationships and made several references to her own secret valentine. Even on softer ballads like “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” her blues aesthetic soulfully expressed the emotional truth of each song. During one especially poignant moment, Raitt herself took to the keyboard for “Nick of Time” and spoke touchingly about her relationship with her parents, who have both recently passed away. On this emotional evening, Raitt welcomed opening act Paul Brady to join her on the stage, letting him know how much his presence means to her. These two skilled songwriters showed obvious joy in performing three songs together, including a solid rendition of “Luck of the Draw.” At all times, Raitt’s graceful vocals and bluesy slide guitar mixed well with keyboardist Jon Cleary’s subtle jazz touch, most notably on the ballad “The Bed I Made,” the rock ’n’ roll piano song “Thing Called Love,” and “I Believe I’m in Love With You.” But it was on “Women Be Wise” that the duo soared, their chemistry bringing this classic to new heights. Now that’s something to talk about.