LIVE: Bonnie Raitt / NRBQ @ Palace Theatre, 04/15/2022

Bonnie Raitt drew a full house to the Palace Theatre on Good Friday. The blues-rock legend was competing with Passover and Easter weekend but still managed to fill the venue to the brim with fans. With opening band NRBQ, music lovers were promised – and delivered – a satisfying spiritual experience that lifted souls.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

NRBQ took the stage promptly at 8 pm with fans still dancing en route to their ticketed seats. If you haven’t heard of NRBQ, my guess is you’ve heard them, just not their name. Many of their songs were both familiar and fun. I was dancing a jive in my keds as I watched the band members playfully move through a fast-paced and harmonized set. The band transported me back to my mother’s era of nights out. Musically sound, the band is worth a second listen if this was your first. They will be at The Hanger in Troy in June.

After a brief set change, Raitt unceremoniously walked onto the stage washed in blue light. She waved and jumped right into her first set. This was Raitt’s first week of performances since the onset of the COVID pandemic’s closing of all things entertainment, and Albany was only the third stop on her tour. So I wasn’t sure what to expect.

At age 72, Raitt’s voice continues to be a national treasure: clear as a bell, perfectly on pitch, and soulfully expressive. Unlike other musicians whose first concert out after the long pandemic showed some nerves and difficulties, Raitt didn’t miss a note. I actually had to look up her age twice as I couldn’t believe how clear her voice continues to sound, and how energized she appeared on stage.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Raitt smiled, as if reading my mind, and waved her hand as she stated, “Don’t be afraid of aging” before she launched into “Nick of Time.” She dedicated songs to friends in the audience, including Helms’ daughter and her family friend Amy Helms. 

The audience was packed with local musicians as well, including NipperFest headliners Super 400, Lee Harvey Blotto (Paul Rapp), and music connoisseur Steve Nover. And you could hear why: Raitt’s rendition of old songs made them new. Her performance of the 80s band INXS’s “Need You Tonight” had all the familiar words, chords and rhythms, but was made completely her own.

Raitt reflected on her losses these past few years, including our community loss of John Prine. When she sang “Angel from Montgomery,” the song written by Prine over 50 years ago, she worked through our collaborative grief at losing Prine while simultaneously lifting the audience into song.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Unafraid to offend, Raitt reflected on the war in Ukraine’s cruelty, the heartbreak of recent losses, and the very nature of love. The “local” girl (she spent a couple years of high school in Poughkeepsie, or “just down the road from here,” as she describes it) seems unchanged by her fame. She sang her songs, including the famous “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” with ease and grace of someone who almost seems unaffected by how world-famous she has become.

Raitt came to Albany on the holiest of days in the Christian and Jewish calendars, and she sanctified them even further with her authentic praise of human love and kindness through word and music. Raitt’s performance was indeed as spiritual an experience. When she returns in future years, make sure you don’t miss her blues-rock spiritual.

Photo Gallery by Jim Gilbert

  1. Mark says

    Memories of Bonnie Raitt at Mayfest at SUNY 50+ years ago. She hasn’t aged. I thought NRBQ were an embarrassment.

  2. Fred says

    Stellar review and excellent photos.

  3. Kent Gibbons says

    I would add that Bonnie’s band was really stellar: James Hutch Hutchinson on bass (electric and upright), Ricky Fataar on drums, Glenn Patscha on keyboards and Duke Levine on guitar.

  4. Kevin says

    NRBQ are so great.I’ve seen them a dozen or so times and I rate them as a top live act.You must catch them.

  5. William Stokes says

    I remember tooling down I75 to the Florida Keys and listening to Bonnie on a cassette tape(1970’s), and thinking, what an amazing voice. She hasn’t lost a thing she may be even better today!

  6. Nicole T Librandi says

    So happy to have been at the amazing Flynn Theater in Burlington, to hear one of the MOST fabulous singers, Bonnie Raitt. She sang and talked with a packed house, all of us appreciating her talent, kindness and generosity of spirit. Sadly — in my opinion — NRBQ should practice more and perform less.

  7. Peter Mullen says

    Just saw Bonnie in Portland, Maine a week or so after this show. Another legend checked off the list. I’d seen John Prine sing Angel From Montgomery, and also Susan Tedeschi. Now i’ve seen the best. Not one ounce of disappointment in the evening.

    NRBQ? The comments here are interesting. Didn’t know them. Never heard of them. Didn’t even know there was an opening act until we were being seated. It was an entertaining 45 minutes. Would I see them on their own? I just might. I think the Portland show was the last with Bonnie and they will be in touring the northeast and New England in the next few weeks.

    Thank you, Bonnie.

Comments are closed.