Mavis Staples testifies / Star Tribune photos by Rich Tsong
Bonnie Raitt called it unofficially the Soul Sisters Tour. That seemed fitting Thursday at the State Fair grandstand.
In her quick 50-minute opening set, Mavis Staples tore it. She found the gospel spirit in readings of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and the Band’s “The Weight” and stirred the crowd with the spirituals “Wade in the Water” and “Creep Along Moses.” She let each of her five backup singers have a vocal solo, and unleashed that magical thunderous voice of hers. Bringing Raitt out for “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” delivered a message in more than one way.
Staples, 73, did exactly what she promised she was there to do: “Bring some joy, some happiness, inspiration and some positive vibrations.” Amen.
At first, Raitt seemed a little off. Was she distracted by the impending rain? The gusty winds? (Not to mention a fan blowing her hair a la Beyonce and J.Lo.) The dizzying fair rides off in the distance? Or was it because she was stationed so far back from the front of the stage? (Shades of Bob Dylan at the grandstand.)
Whatever the reason, Raitt seemed unfocused at first. The opening “Used To Rule the World,” about getting older, and a reggae remake of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” didn’t connect effectively. She filled the set with six tunes from her fine, new “Slipstream,” her first collection of new material in seven years.
As detailed in my review, Raitt eventually found her focus, with both ballads and romps rating as highlights.
When she lost her place on the set list, the 62-year-old joked about having senior moments. As it was, because of scary lightning and a modest rain, she trimmed her set list by about three or four numbers and 20 minutes.
Here is what Raitt played at the fair:
Used to Rule the World/ Right Down the Line (Gerry Rafferty)/ Something To Talke About/ Million Miles (Bob Dylan)/ You Can’t Fail Me Now/ Love Sneakin’ Up on You/ Come to Me/ Marriage Made in Hollywood/ Take My Love with You/ Angel from Montgomery (John Prine)/ Thing Called Love/ I Got News for You (Ray Charles song sung by keyboardist Mike Finnigan)/ I Feel So Damn Good ENCORE I Can’t Make You Love Me/ Never Make Your Move Too Soon