What an extraordinary treat to have this classic double bill come to the Bowl in the heart of the summer season. Richard Thompson remains the standard by which rock guitarists are judged, and he has never sounded better than he did with this trio, where the interplay between Thompson’s guitar and the rhythm section is fiery and freewheeling. Although he conjured up many of the great songs from his massive catalogue, the set’s climax, a new song called “Fergus Lang,” demonstrated just how timely his songwriting remains. Although he never mentions the Donald by name, the song is clearly an extremely clever and biting satire of Trump. Take this verse, for example: “Fergus he builds and builds / Yet small is his erection / Fergus has a fine head of hair / When the wind’s in the right direction.”
Bonnie Raitt has lost none of her political savvy either, taking time in between songs to congratulate California on finally closing the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Raitt has been at the forefront of anti-nuke activism since the 1970s, and took part in protests against the construction of the facility. Her time has come musically as well, as her voice and guitar playing seem to continue to improve in nuance, tone, and sheer soul as she heads into her sixth decade as a performer. She opened the set with a cover of the INXS hit “Need You Tonight” which she transformed into just the kind of funk rocking stomp that gets parties started quickly. From there it was on to a hefty 16-song set and an ecstatic 3-song encore. Highlights included songs old, like “Something to Talk About,” and new, like “The Coming Round Is Going Through.” Thompson returned to the stage to trade guitar licks with Raitt, and on “Angel from Montgomery,” she pulled longtime musical partner Freebo and good friend David Crosby out of the audience and onto the stage. There may be some musicians who have been around this long that tour primarily as nostalgia acts, but these two artists are as fresh and dynamic as they have ever been.