Melissa Etheridge loves Canada, and Canada loves her.
From our balcony seats at Place des Arts’ Theatre Maisonneuve, providing an unobstructed view of the stage, we sat and waited as the anticipation in the hall steadily grew… until from somewhere off-stage, that familiar husky voice instructed someone to kill the lights and get the show started. And so it did. And the collective cheer from the crowd was deafening.
It was high energy from the moment she took the stage, Etheridge was everything I have come to expect from veteran performers like her, and much more. There was such an incredible effortlessness to her performance – the ease in transition from giving it everything she had musically, to joking with the crowd about her terrible French speaking abilities – and then back again to 200% without appearing to break a sweat (and in that shiny synthetic top she had on, I am especially awed.)
She began the show with a few tracks from her latest record, 4th Street Feeling, released this past September. An excellent record, and if you haven’t already given it a listen, I suggest you do. The record is blues-heavy and perfect for showcasing that gritty, soulful voice that is her trademark, and from the first note out of her mouth, I felt like I was home. And though I love 4th Street, there is always the question of whether or not a favourite artist is going to play all new material or throw in a few hits. I have a soft spot for her 1988 songs, even if she’s sick of playing them.
Three songs in, a very grateful crowd was graced with “I Want To Come Over” – with a little a cappella bit of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” added to the mix – and they (we) went wild.
Naturally, as this was also election night for the US, Etheridge made some jokes about escaping the madness of it all to come to Canada, because we’re so nice. She stopped there and didn’t get more political about it though, which surprised me a little given her activist tendencies and a clearly receptive audience. But I appreciate her focus on the music.
Back to some more tracks from the new album, “Kansas City” and “4th Street Feeling” were a couple of standouts for me here. The bass line on “4th Street” is just delicious. Although Etheridge’s band didn’t wow me for the first part of the show – they were clearly tight but seemed to lack any passion – but as the show progressed they showed why they’re worthy to share the stage with her. On THAT note – I’d like to take a moment here and thank Etheridge for reminding us that women can SHRED. She can’t just play. She rivals some of the best guitarists out there, and though her music may be top 40 friendly a lot of the time, this show left no question as to why her career has enjoyed the longevity it has. Moving from banjo to guitar to harmonica to piano and drums with ease, it was impossible not to be floored by her immense talent. Incredible. Really.
She played for an impressive 2.5 hours with uncompromising energy, passion and some incredible extended jams with her band. Etheridge capped her set with a few more of her older hits including “Come to My Window” (complete with crowd sing-along), “Similar Features”, “Bring Me Some Water” and “The Only One.” The highlight of the show was definitely Etheridge jamming individually with each band member, one at a time, including standing behind the drummer and playing, as well as standing behind the guitar player and playing the guitar together. Brilliantly done.
All in all, a solid show start to finish – and nothing beats having your expectations met and exceeded by one of your favourite artists! Etheridge is an incredible entertainer – occasionally talks a little too long – but is endearing, charming and funny, making for a great live show!