Bonnie Raitt and Richard Thompson Trio

Fraze Pavilion, Kettering, Ohio

Aug. 30, 2016

by Kristopher Weiss


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From INXS to Talking Heads, through blues, rock, gospel, funk and country, Bonnie Raitt and her four-man band visited most every cranny of American music Tuesday night in a nearly sold-out Fraze Pavilion.

That Raitt’s two-hour performance didn’t reach the highs of the Richard Thompson Trio’s opening set is forgivable. Not many can top the singular Thompson and it takes guts to put an artist of his caliber on your show. Raitt admitted as much as she took the stage, calling her support act “a bad ass on the guitar” before concluding, “I better throw down.”


And Raitt gave it her best shot, opening with an electrifying rendition of INXS’ Need You Tonight. She kept the pace up through the next couple of songs – Randall Bramblett’s Used to Rule the World and Longing in their Hearts – before settling into a loose, occasionally lagging set that included a couple of audibles from the written setlist, a false start after beginning Round and Round in the wrong key and plenty of good-natured and seemingly sincere between-song banter.

Playing before the image of a sunset sky that changed colors throughout the show, Raitt fingerpicked acoustic guitars, played electric slide and sat down at the keyboard with Mike Finnigan as the quintet played hits like Nick of Time and I Can’t Make You Love Me; obscure cuts such as I Feel the Same; and well-chosen covers including the Heads’ Burnin’ Down the House, Los Lobos’ Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes and, adding some hillbilly to Raitt’s blues, Your Sweet and Shiny Eyes.

Raitt’s trademark rasp shone brightly on John Prine’s Angel from Montgomery and keyboardist Finnigan sparred gamely with her, singing Delbert McClinton’s part on Good Man, Good Woman.

Thompson also got in on the act, playing lead guitar on Not the Only One and duetting with Raitt as she sang Linda Thompson’s vocals on a delicate Dimming of the Day.

The set was generos to a fault. And with a handful of lifeless ballads, a couple of mediocre tracks from her latest Dig In Deep LP and a lengthy and unnecessary Finnigan showcase in the form of B.B. King’s Don’t Answer the Door, it went on about 30 minutes too long. That time could have been better used by Thompson, whose 50-minute performance elicited a rousing standing ovation and could – and should – have easily been extended.

The trio played with such intensity, the drummer caused a piece of his kit to fall off the riser midsong. Thompson, meanwhile, put on a clinic on guitar, playing simultaneous lead and rhythm parts on hard-driving tracks like Fork in the Road and Hard on Me.


Smiling broadly, and using hammer-ons, ticking the neck of his guitar and beating on its body, Thompson made sounds rarely made by lesser players. And when left alone for a solo-acoustic run through 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, he sounded like three players on his single six string.

Thompson and his band performed in front of a grey sheet that hid Raitt’s setup. This clever design led to fabulous pacing that resulted in only 15 minutes of downtime between his and Raitt’s shows.

At concert’s end after nearly three hours of music, you couldn’t help but think the marquee should have been reversed, or at the very least Raitt and Thompson should have shared co-headlining status. But if you’re going to be out-performed by your opening act – and Raitt was – there’s no shame in being out-performed by Thompson.

While we don’t have any video yet of this show, we found this nugget:

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