With ominous, rain-filled clouds looming overhead, it looked like concert-goers were in for a notorious Red Rocks downpour. But, just before the opening songs of Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal’s show the showers stopped and the weather cleared.
Dubbed the BonTaj Roulet, the double-billed, funky, blues-laden show featured the two world-class artists and their respective bands each playing about an hour solo and then joining forces for an hour together.
During his solo set, Taj used the skills of his horn section — Joe Sublett (sax), Darrell Leonard (trumpet) — to highlight his deep, gritty vocals and harmonica on songs like Hello Josephine, Bo Diddley’s classic Diddy Wah Diddy and his own Further on Down the Road.
The noticeable omission from Taj’s portion was his guitar, which made an appearance on only a couple of songs, leaving Johnny Lee Schell to aptly handle the guitar duty.
After a short intermission, Bonnie and her band (George Marinelli on guitars, Ricky Fataar on drums, Ricky Peterson on keyboards and Hutch Hutchinson on bass) kicked off their show with I Sho Do.
Several times throughout her set she mentioned how amazing the venue was and recalled previous shows she had played there (including the 1999 performance with Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin, Bruce Hornsby and David Lindley that was so cold she had “three pairs of long-underwear on.”)
While she did play a number of songs from her Grammy sweeping Nick of Time (John Hiatt’s Thing Called Love, Nick of Time, Love Letter) as well as crowd favorites Something to Talk About and an incredibly beautiful version of John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery her set focused on the more traditional blues music that formed her roots.
The encore/act-three of the BonTaj Roulet combined the two groups for rollicking renditions of Gnawing On It< span> (“I wrote this with Roy Rogers, the great slide player not the cowboy,” she joked.) She Caught the Katy and the calypso-infused Wah She Go Do, which Bonnie sang in her best Caribbean accent.
She took a moment to mention that the charity benefited that night by the BonTaj Roulet Action Fund was the Women’s Bean Project.
“Can you imagine what it’s like having two drummers?” Bonnie asked before the Toots and the Maytals’ tune My Love is So Strong.
The highlight of their collaborations was the sizzling, back-and-forth teasing on Tramp. Before their final number they thanked the bands, crew and audience and launched into Coming Home / TV Mama, ending their fantastic show just minutes after 10:30.
The BonTaj Roulet will be on tour for the rest of September, dates and more info on the charities the tour is benefiting can be found on BonTajRoulet.com.