Monday, August 10, 2009

Bontaj Roulet at Oakdale...

I loved Bonnie Raitt in the 1970s and early 1980s. Saw her a dozen times at venues as varied as Bridgeport Jai Alai (they kept the netting up; perhaps because we fans were too rabid?), Toad's Place in New Haven (where she performed drunk in a mini), Oakdale Theatre (where she shared a strange co-billing with her dad, Broadway legend John Raitt). But I fell out of love in the early 1990s as she finally got her slice of the money pie with a few wildly popular albums. I never begrudged her the fortune (she deserved it), but I found the new style boring compared with the old. It wasn't a conscious decision, rather a slow fade from my catalog.

About eight years ago, we saw her at the new Oakdale. I remember liking the show, but I was more impressed by the opening act and backup band, Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. I was an immediate fan. Once I began to annually attend Jazz Fest in New Orleans, I got to see Cleary often, both at the Fest and at the Maple Leaf Cafe. Well, this year Bonnie was back at Jazz Fest's 2nd weekend and I'm in love again. The setting was perfect. She was backed by Cleary & the Gents, had a killer horn section of Big Easy musicians and pulled out lots of old material. She was fabulous, forcing me to see her complete set when I planned to cut early to catch Patty Griffin (luckily, I still managed a good chuck of Patty's).

So it was a no-brainer when I saw that Bonnie was doing a tour with Taj Mahal called Bontaj Roulet with a stop at Oakdale. Keith, you in? Yep, grab some tickets. Got section 104, left of stage. Steve the Bod was to grab another four for him, Mary, Vin/Marsha, but failed to do so. V/M managed to get some at the last minute. Busy weekend, for we just returned from Saturday night's Sarah Borges show at Hygienic Art Park in New London, so we forego dining out, opting instead to meet everyone for a pre-concert drink. Parking is a snap. Keith/Sharie flag us down as we arrive, moving past the Steve Miller Band for $20 signs outside. Margaritas are the choice instead of outrageously overpriced Heineken's. Keith states that he's up for the Journey/Heart concert. Yikes!

Taj takes the stage first, backed by the Phantom Blues Band, and plays an eclectic, energetic set. Really good horns. Plays for about an hour, then a short break. Bonnie comes on looking fit, sounding strong, sampling songs from all over her vast catalog. Also backed by an excellent band (no Jon Cleary this tour), which includes Ricky Fataar on drums (Bonnie notes he has been with her since her Green Light album), Rick Peterson on keyboards (newly available after being fired as Mets pitching coach), Don'tknow Marinelli on guitar, unknown guy on base. Bonnie is both cool and hot on slide. Nice version of John Prine's Angel From Montgomery. She gives a shout out to the old Shaboo Inn! Speaking of Bonnie's underrated Green Light album, the highlight of the night for me is NRBQ's Me And the Boys with special guest guitar by CT's own Big Al Anderson! Very cool. I'm less taken with her tepid version of Something To Talk About.

This thing lasted almost three hours! The grand finale is a joint collaboration of both bands with Taj and Bonnie for about a half-hour. Nice finish and, keeping with the theme set the previous night by Sarah Borges, no encore!

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