Raitt kept it loose, her interactions with band, her stage crew and the sold-out crowd spontaneous, the set list subject to tweaks and re-tweaks on the fly, her phrasing venturesome. When she flubbed lyrics, which happened more than twice, she laughed about it. Altogether, it made for a warm, unscripted performance.
She had, she said, just three general principles to guide her that and every night: songwriting, blues and “men and women — and other combinations — not getting along.” The supple ballads and sinewy rockers, mostly from her new album Slipstream, with a few drawn from commercial blockbusters Nick of Time, Luck of the Draw and Longing In Their Hearts, moved her to thank the songwriters by name. But it was the 12-bar shuffles, a form she’s been living with for well over four decades, that practically lifted her right off her feet.
As stodgy as this might initially sound, the evening’s subtle undercurrent was the theme of equality. Raitt made a passing reference to the previous week’s debates on same-sex marriage, and waited until the very end to mention the environmental organizations camped out in her merch area. But throughout the night she sang not about people struggling to get along so much as relational give and take, mutual pleasure, going out on emotional limbs for each other. And when you get down to it, that last part is exactly what she did for her audience.