Honolulu is becoming the place for artists
to end their tours. U2’s tour came to and end here recently.
After a week off in Maui, Bonnie Raitt wrapped up her year-long
tour at the Waikiki Shell on the 6th.
The Waikiki Shell is known to HPU students and faculty as the
scene of graduation. But musicians as well as graduates have
long walked the floorboards of the Shell. Local tradition has
it that the sonic waves of Jimi Hendrix’s amplifiers, shattering
the peace of the monied, Gold Coast condominiums, on the other
end of Kapiolani Park in 1968, ended rock music at the Shell
Bonnie Raitt broke out of the Boston club scene with a self-titled
album in 1971 that emphasized her slide guitar blues stylings.
Her Give It Up album, released in 1972, is still a favorite.
That same year saw her at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival,
playing with her inspirations, Sippie Wallace and others. By
the time I was an undergraduate at Boston College in the mid-70s,
her shows at the Performance Center near Harvard Square in Cambridge
were already the stuff of legend.
She was a female that sang, wrote, and played. That is commonplace
now but not then. She did all three well. That is still not common
now, male or female. Broadening musically, her first hit was
a cover of Del Shannon’s Runaway a few years later.
Bonnie (it just seems wrong to call her Raitt) went through some
ups and downs in the 80s. Like several others in the business,
she credits her finding sobriety to my friend, the late Stevie
Ray Vaughan. She won one of her several Grammys from his tribute
Now a member of the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, Bonnie walked
onstage at the Shell with handfuls of Grammys and hit songs to
her credit. She was no longer young and neither was her audience.
But, unlike many in her audience, Bonnie is still idealistic.
Some of the well-heeled ticket holders in the front rows won
their tickets at auction, the proceeds going to Hawaiian nonprofits
designated by Bonnie.
In good spirts after their break, Bonnie and her band mixed hits
like “Thing Called Love,” “Something to Talk
About”and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” with
older material like “Women Be Wise,” along with several
songs from her newest release “Souls Alike.”
Bonnie repeatedly referred to the gorgous surroundings of Hawai‘i
and to promoter Tom Moffatt, who has been doing shows here since
the 50s. She was also generous in her support for her band and
gave New Orleans keyboardist and fellow songwritwer Jon Cleary
lots of solo time.
She absolutely nailed “Your Good Thing is About to Come
to an End” from The Glow, which she dedicated to R&B
pioneer Ruth Brown, who recently passed away. She also made several
poignant comments about the passing of time and loved ones, remarks
not lost on those that knew that her parents had also recently
She tore the house up with a rocking version of a Fabulous Thunderbirds
cover to close her set, returning for a multi-song encore that
concluded with John Prine’s shimmering “Angel From
Dave Lawrence, music director for KPOI-FM, Honolulu’s classic
rock station was impressed, comparing the concert favorably even
to the U2 show a few weeks earlier. “She speaks to themes
that mean more to me now than when I was younger,” he noted, “Very
Maybe part of that is her blues background coming through, not
only musically, but lyrically. In any case, Bonnie is one of
the handful of performers that have proved that even if rock
music refuses to grow old, it can mature. The other thing she
proved is that sincerity can still touch an audience more than
a big stage show and Gucci sunglasses ever will.