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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 27, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 35
Melissa Etheridge is fearless at the Paramount
Arts & Entertainment
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Melissa Etheridge is fearless at the Paramount

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Melissa Etheridge
August 22
Paramount Theatre


Lesbian. Singer. Songwriter. Survivor. Mother. These are words often used when describing Melissa Etheridge. After all, the pop-based folk-rock artist is an open Lesbian, has sold over 27 million albums worldwide, penned 15 Grammy-nominated songs (winning two), publicly battled and beat breast cancer, and has helped raise four children. That is the Melissa Etheridge I was ready to see headlining on August 22 at the Paramount.

I did, in fact, see all of those things & and much, much more. What I learned - what we all learned - is that Melissa Etheridge truly is fearless. She bared her soul and talked openly and honestly with the audience about wants and needs as she took us, the willing passengers, on a nearly three-hour nonstop, no opening band, no intermission rock 'n' rollercoaster ride of emotion, nostalgia, and love.

Fearless, Melissa Etheridge's latest world tour, is much more than a greatest hits concert or a promotion of her 2010 album Fearless Love. Fearless delivers guitar solos, new takes on old favorites, and the chance to watch Melissa Etheridge - a Lesbian and rock icon - do what she does best: sing.

The show opened with very little dramatics; the stage was minimally decorated with a Persian rug and a half-moon back screen that flashed images and colors reminiscent of an LSD trip. Etheridge, dressed in a sleek evergreen crushed velvet blazer and purple pants, was accompanied by a lead guitarist, bass player, drummer, and keyboardist (who played every instrument imaginable). This was a breath of fresh air. This was, to me, a clear sign that Etheridge wasn't messing around. Fearless, from beginning to end, is about the artist and her music - and very lean on theatrics.

At 49, Etheridge reminded the audience that she's been playing songs for over 20 years. Still, she approached each song as if she'd recorded it yesterday. It was nice to see an artist that has yet to be bored by her own material. This was especially evident when she sang "I Wanna Come Over," a guttural single from 1995's Your Little Secret. She bantered with the audience, saying, "It's all about what you want. You are going get what you want. So be careful what you wish for." As the band reached the dramatic buildup before she screams, "I wanna come over!" she looked out at the audience, the lights went down, and the place exploded in cheers & and then came the crescendo. Magnificent.

The predictable songs, most of which came from her 1993 commercial breakthrough album Yes I Am, were smartly placed on the set list. Rather then bunching them all together or saving fan favorites like "If I Wanted To," "I'm The Only One," and "Come to My Window" for the end, Etheridge surprised everyone by giving them little attention - although all three were performed flawlessly and with fervor - over her new material.

Speaking of "new material," it is really good. No longer as in favor with the radio and video programming as she once was, it is a shame that these tracks won't get the commercial attention they deserve. Still, from the Paramount audience, Etheridge received the adoration that songs like "Fearless Love," "Miss California," and "Indiana" deserve.

Musically, the band couldn't have been tighter. Fearless was the sound of a well-oiled rock machine with Etheridge as the lead, playing more guitars than I could count.

In a particularly touching moment, Etheridge spoke candidly with the audience about her six-years of living cancer-free. After the emotional applause subsided, the stage lights all turned pink (the color associated with breast cancer awareness/support) and she sang "I Run for Life," which references her own fight with breast cancer and her determination to overcome it, and seeks to encourage other breast cancer survivors and their families.

For me, the show's two standout performances came in the way of B-sides; songs that I rarely gave a good listen to on their respective albums. The first, "The Different" from 2001's Skin, left me with goosebumps. Much like other Melissa Etheridge power-ballads, the song builds and builds until finally the lyrics demand, "You've never been to the moon but don't you want to go / under the sea and the volcano. You never looked in my eyes but don't you want to know / what the dark and wild and the different know!" The second song was a 10-minute, rocked-out version of "Like The Way I Do," which she prefaced by asking the audience, "Who else loves you like I do?"

After pouring her heart and soul out onstage, it became apparent that neither the artist nor the fans wanted Etheridge to leave. For an encore, Etheridge simply appeared back onstage and closed the show with "Gently We Row," a stirring ballad about motherhood from her latest album. The show and encore closed with a well-deserved standing ovation - the last from an audience who had been on their feet many times during the show. Fearless, indeed.

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