in performance: melissa etheridge

Melissa Etheridge.

Aside from an Opera House performance earlier tonight that more than reaffirmed her reputation as a tireless live performer, Melissa Etheridge all but guaranteed a healthy number of online views for a music video of the evening’s final tune, “Like the Way I Do.” The tune, typical of the anthemic, electric and very authoritative tone of her music, was shot 30 years ago one block over at the long-since-demolished Main Street club known as Breeding’s. While Etheridge joked about the ‘80s-style spikiness of her hair in the video (it was, for the record, truly “Breakfast Club” worthy), she seemed quite at ease with her past and, more importantly, her place in the present during the one hour, 45 minute performance.

Perhaps that’s because so many of Etheridge’s songs – especially the several selections pulled from her 1988 self-titled debut record and 1993’s “Yes I Am” album – have aged quite well. They are works tailored sharply for the rough, R&B enforced edges of her voice and empowered by a confidence and attitude Etheridge still richly reflected onstage.

The years have only slightly settled Etheridge’s stage demeanor. There was perhaps a shade less abandon in her vocals tonight, although songs like “Chrome Plated Heart” and “Come to My Window” never lacked for enthusiasm and drive. It’s just that Etheridge takes her time these days in her shows. For instance, when she strapped on a striking looking (and sounding) Gretsch guitar for “Don’t You Need,” the song stretched into a loose, elongated jam. The same held true for the slinky electric groove that neatly ignited “Ruins” with minimal fanfare.

It should be noted that Etheridge handled nearly all of the guitarwork in her four member band. Keyboardist Max Hart played rhythm guitar a few times and, on “Talking to My Angel,” added colorful pedal steel. Outside of that, the show’s guitar duties, which focused far more on rhythm and riffs than flashy solos, were piloted solely by Etheridge.

But it was still the overwhelming sense of affirmation built into Etheridge’s songs, and the very good natured vigor in which she delivered it, that sold the show. In fact, the singer all but dared the near-capacity crowd to share the concert’s abundant sense of joy and promise as it re-entered the outside world at evening’s end with some serious testimony that prefaced “I Am the Only One.” At that point, the Opera House audience seemed more than willing to make good on the mission.

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