JOHN BARTUS: SOMETIMES, IT’S GOOD TO GET AWAY

After eight years on the city council (14 in all) and a rather busy year as mayor, a quick getaway was certainly due. A bit of planning and fortuitous happenstance combined to make a three-day two-night stay on the mainland just what the doctor ordered for both Sarah and me.

Months ago, when I found out that Bonnie Raitt was playing the Broward Center for the Arts the very next night after my last city council meeting, I went to her website, joined her fan club, got in the presale and snagged front row center seats. Bonnie’s special guest on the tour was singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, someone who I’ve been a fan of since “Walking In Memphis” hit the airwaves back in 1991. I had seen Marc a couple of times fairly recently and was familiar with his concert appearances. I had not, however, seen Bonnie Raitt since I had been in college, probably 1979 or 1980. She was great then, but she’d had her biggest success in the intervening years. We had a lot to catch up on, so to speak.

Before the trip, I had arranged for us to stay a couple of nights at the Mayfair House in Coconut Grove, a lush tropical hotel that is special to Sarah and me. The Mayfair had undergone a major renovation over the past year, and it is still one of the most unique properties anywhere. It’s right in the heart of the Grove, within walking distance to some amazing restaurants and shops.

Back to the concert – for now. Marc Cohn came on and played mostly piano (and a couple on guitar), accompanied by a keyboardist he shared with Bonnie Raitt’s band and a talented percussionist who played some cool instruments that he beat into rhythmic submission. His stories about the songs were insightful, and the songs themselves captivated with their incredibly musical and dynamic arrangements. If anything, Marc’s voice sounds better than it did back when “Memphis” came out. Although short, Marc’s set included great songs like “Walk Through The World,” “Listening to Levon,” “Perfect Love,” “Silver Thunderbird” and (of course) “Walking In Memphis.” The musicians knew the material from every angle and served the songs well — that’s all anyone can ask. After a quick set change, it was time for the headliner to take the stage!

Bonnie Raitt’s band has been with her for a long time — a couple of members have been veterans of her ensemble since the early 1980s. And they played like they’d been together forever. She played a few from her new album (collection of songs to be streamed?), Just Like That, including the amazing blues-jazzy “Blame It On Me.” She noted at one point during the concert that a lot of her songs were “on the edge,” songs about relationships moving apart. One of these songs was her incredible ballad, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin. Mojo magazine declared that this was number 8 in the 100 Greatest Songs of All Time, and Bonnie kept the Broward Center audience spellbound during her rendition.

Other standouts included her own “Nick of Time” from the album of the same name, as well as her signature version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” which she dedicated to her old friend John. Bonnie’s soulful blues rocked out on several songs that got the theater jumping, notably on the John Hiatt song “Thing Called Love” and another hit, “Something to Talk About.” No matter the song, no matter the mood, Bonnie and her band nailed it. 

Bonnie brought out Marc Cohn during the encore, where they duetted on Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.” (Bonnie introduced the song as one from another excitable redhead.) At 74 years young, Bonnie hasn’t lost a thing, her voice and slide guitar as expressive and soulful as ever. She is a national treasure, and I hope she keeps going for years to come.

The little getaway was wrapped up with a visit to the Night Gardens at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens. By day, Fairchild is a 65-acre lush tropical garden. By night during the holidays, Fairchild comes alive with multi-colored lights, lasers, sculptures and mists that catch the lights as they blow through the trees and plants.

And so the short getaway ended, and the immediate future seems easier. It’s good to get away sometimes!

– John’s Perpetual Island Tour will make a couple of special stops this Friday at Boondocks and Saturday at Porky’s, and otherwise stops every Monday at Boondocks, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Key Colony Inn, and Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing. Check out John’s music anywhere you stream or download your music, or visit johnbartus.hearnow.com.

Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.