Friday, June 18, 2004

Melissa In Concert 

The Girl and I made the trek to Hyannis last night for the Melissa Etheridge concert at the Cape Cod Melody Tent. It was a rocking evening, with the added bonus of Kate Clinton being the opening act! She was her usual sharp-witted and sharp-tongued self, with fabulous impersonations of President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. The joke that got me roaring, though, was during her discussion of people who criticize The L Word (and these people do not rank high on her list). To the folks who complain that the characters don't represent ALL lesbians, she has "four words: tel e vi sion." She further pointed out that the show takes place in West Hollywood, and LA lesbians just aren't like other lesbians. She thinks that none of them do butch-femme. "They do Hepburn. Are you Katharine or Audrey?" I am adamantly Katharine.

Back to the main event. The Melody Tent is literally a tent - one of those huge circus type tents with two main support poles. The stage is in the center and revolves, and the audience sits all around. We had 9th row seats and it was great! Plus, during the "quiet the audience down" section when the band leaves and she sings a quieter number ("Meet Me In The Dark"), she sat at an electronic keyboard. The keyboard was hard-wired to a spot off-stage, so they had to temporarily halt the motion. It just happened that she was directly in front of our seats when they stopped the stage. So cool.

The Girl was quite excited because she could totally check out her drum god, Kenny Aronoff, in action. With the rotating stage, she could study his technique from all angles, plus she brought sport binoculars, which combined with our being so close enabled her both to analyze his grip and to read his set list!

We saw Melissa last year at the Melody Tent, and I was a little disappointed. Her energy level seemed rather low for most of the show. I thought perhaps it was just a small venue kind of vibe, since she's always been so up and energetic at the large venues. But it must have just been an off night, because last night she just seemed so full of joy and life. She was moving all around the stage, climbing up on the elevated platforms, and smiling that electric mischief smile.

She did a mix of old and new, as always. "Like the Way I Do" was absent (which I found disappointing), but she revived "Sleep While I Drive." Before she played this song from her second album, she shared with us that sometimes when she's feeling down, insecure or lonely she'll go online and check e-bay to see what's selling that's connected to her (and being astonished at what people will pay for stuff), or check i-tunes to see how her tracks are doing in the download statistics. She was surprised that lately "Sleep While I Drive" had been in the top 10 frequently, so she decided people would likely enjoy hearing it live. Years ago she had a VH1 Duets show on which she sang this with Jewel, which was good, but not nearly as good as "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" with Sophie B. Hawkins. But years before that, she performed at a televised AIDS benefit and performed "Sleep While I Drive" with k.d. lang. That was the bomb!

During "If You Want To" (you can call me on the phone), she borrowed a cell phone from an audience member (named Laura) and, after getting permission, re-called the last dialed number and gave Laura's friend Jenny a little phone concert.

She did a blues rock combo with "Bring Me Some Water" segueing directly into "I'm The Only One" and brought down the house. Later she did a sort of lost souls tribute, starting with "Silent Legacy," followed by "Scarecrow" and moving right into "Tuesday Morning." I don't know about anyone else, but neither The Girl nor I had dry eyes after that.

The most powerful performance of "Scarecrow" that I've seen had to be at the Equality Rocks! concert at RFK Stadium in D.C. during the weekend of the March For Equality in April 2000. Matthew Shepard's parents had just spoken, the stage went dark and Melissa came out in a lone spotlight. The emotion just built as the song moved along, and at one point she choked up to the point that she had to stop singing. The audience filled in until composure returned.

At last night's show, Kenny Aronoff on drums and Mark Brown on bass were fabulous as usual. The guitar player, Philip Sayce was extremely talented but a bit distracting. He looked like a Swedish porn actor (turns out he's Canadian), and had heavy metal mannerisms. During the introductions, his solo and the audience response reminded me of when Marty McFly launched into Van Halen during Johnny B. Good at the Serenity Under the Sea dance. But the music was excellent and the band and the audience all seemed to enjoy the show.

Amazon links: Lucky, Kate Clinton, The L Word, Back to the Future, Jewel, Sophie B. Hawkins, k.d. lang

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:39 AM