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Bonnie Raitt returns to the Mercer Theater 

Grammy-winning sensation now opens the 2009 Savannah Music Festival

BACK IN the ‘70s and ‘80s, when phenomenal singer and slide guitarist Bonnie Raitt was more of a stellar club act than the superstar female icon of blues and rock-influenced pop that she is now, she played our area several times at Hilton Head’s intimate (and now defunct) Old Post Office.

“We tried numerous times to book her at the Night Flight,” recalls local music promoter and diehard blues aficionado Tim Coy — who helped run that fabled Savannah showcase venue from the ‘70s through the late ‘80s.

“It just never worked out, and then before you knew it, she was huge and completely out of our price range.

“I saw her at the Old Post Office back then,” says Coy. “In fact, the first time I’d ever heard of Lyle Lovett was when he actually opened up for Bonnie at one of those Hilton Head shows.”

It’s almost hard now to imagine seeing either one of those multiple Grammy winners (Raitt has nine to her name alone!) on a smallish, low stage in a room that held barely 400 people, but that’s just where Bonnie appeared only a year or so before her massive, career-changing breakthrough LP Nick of Time shot her into the upper echelon of music biz fame and made her one of the most reliably popular female musicians of her generation.

click to enlarge Bonnie Raitt
  • Bonnie Raitt

The last time Ms. Raitt played our neck of the woods was after an absence of almost two decades. That sold-out performance at the Johnny Mercer Theater in April 2007 earned rave reviews from those who attended, both for the high caliber of the musical performances put forth by Raitt and her longtime band of seasoned pros, and for an unusually balanced and clear audio mix.

In breaking news, Connect can now confirm that a show by Ms. Raitt and her group —along with special opening act The Randall Bramblett Band— will now serve to kick off the next Savannah Music Festival, immediately following St. Patrick’s Day on Wed., March 18, 2009.

According to the SMF’s Ryan McMaken, his organization hopes to gain a boost in publicity and ticket sales with this noteworthy booking.

“Bonnie’s been on our radar since the current incarnation of the SMF began,” he offers. “So the fact we were able to convince her to come was a great reason to extend the festival for one more day.”

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Here's a great clip of Bonnie sitting in with the Double Trouble rhythm section at a tribute show for the late Stevie Ray Vaughan:

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The massive, internationally-acclaimed annual event showcasing traditional, roots and fine arts music from around the world will also feature stellar artists in the genres of jazz (such as Chick Corea), bluegrass (such as Chris Thile of Nickel Creek), alt.country (such as Neko Case), blues (such as Corey Harris), classical (such as the Prazak Quartet) and world music (such as Bela Fleck’s African Project).

Yet, McMaken feels there is a strong chance this double bill of soulful, swampy pop, rock and funk will draw a slightly different crowd than many of the SMF’s other 2009 offerings — albeit one which would likely enjoy many other shows during the 19-day celebration.

“Even though it will be almost two years to the day since she last played here, I think she’s one of those artists that could be a regular attraction in Savannah,” says McMaken.

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Here's a a fan-shot clip of Randall Bramblett (ex-Sea Level, Traffic, etc...) and his terrific band playing live in 2008:

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“It’s a given that with a show this size, we’ll see plenty of new faces in the audience,” he muses. “We can use this opportunity to give them more information on other Americana shows in our opening weekend. A lot of those artists may not have the marquee value of Bonnie Raitt, but her fans may enjoy them as much if not more.”

McMaken notes that SMF events often sell out months ahead of time, and encourages anyone interested in this particular concert to purchase their tickets as far in advance as possible.

Says McMaken, “They go on sale this Thursday at 10 a.m. through our website and the SCAD Box Office, and we fully expect them to move very quickly.” cs

Savannah Music Festival presents: Bonnie Raitt with Randall Bramblett

When: Wed., March 18

Where: Johnny Mercer Theater

Cost: $75 - $35 adv.

On Sale: 10 am, Jan. 8 @ 525-5050, savannahmusicfestival.org

Info: bonnieraitt.com, randallbramblett.com

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Jim Reed

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