As Bonnie Raitt walked on stage at Bellco Theatre on Thursday, the crowd rose, offering her a standing ovation before she performed a single note. Strutting her sassy, red-headed blues and rocking her slide-guitar moves, Raitt demonstrated why she’s garnered 10 Grammys over her four-decade career.
Soon, her enormous voice filled the cavernous space, transforming the huge theater into a small club feel with bluesy hoots and hollers from the audience of mostly Boomers. Her voice ranged wide from whiskey-raspy-alto to bell-clear-falsetto. And her improvisational phrasing showed how much she’s influenced a generation of female vocalists.
Opening with “Real Man,” Raitt and her virtuoso band worked through a set incorporating both vintage material from “Nick of Time” and several numbers from her most recent record “Slipstream” (winner of the 2013 Grammy for best Americana album).
Raitt, renowned for her soulful covers, gave a shout-out to Gerry Rafferty before singing “Right Down the Line.” She also covered Bob Dylan songs, an extended, ethereal rendition of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” and a harmonious, tear-jerking version of Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day.”
Toward the concert’s end, Raitt cited Tony Bennett and B.B. King as inspiring legends who continue to live out long careers. She added that her father — Broadway singer John Raitt — performed until age 86.
“I ain’t turning this in,” Raitt said, tuning her guitar. “I ain’t hanging up nothin’, baby.”
And the lengthy encore that followed gave quite a bit of weight to her words.
Colleen Smith is a longtime contributor to The Denver Post and the author of the acclaimed novel “Glass Halo” and “Laid-Back Skier” by Friday Jones Publishing.