Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Etheridge's energy pumps up Riverbend crowd

By Jeff Wilson
Enquirer contributor

        Something strange happened at Riverbend Sunday night. If you walked around the pavilion, you would have noticed how many empty seats there were for the Melissa Etheridge concert. If your eyes stayed on the stage, and you gauged the size of the crowd by how much energy was in the air, you would have thought it was a sold-out show.

        Ms. Etheridge's fans stayed on their feet through most of the 18-song, two-hour set. They danced, sang along, waved their hands, played air guitar, and cheered so loudly that almost every song seemed like an encore.

        Leading a small band — just guitar, bass and drums accompanied her on acoustic guitar and voice — Ms. Etheridge delved right into her high-octane hits. A new one, “I Want to Be in Love,” opened the show, and was soon followed by “I Want to Come Over,” “Similar Features” and “Come to My Window.”

        Things cooled down toward the middle of the set. While band members took a break, country singer Terri Clark made a special guest appearance, adding some sweet-sounding harmonies to the Nashville-influenced “You Can Sleep While I Drive.”

        Accompanying herself on piano, Ms. Etheridge sang Joan Armatrading's “The Weakness in Me” with authority.

        When the band returned, so did the volume level. By the time Ms. Etheridge launched into “Meet Me in the Back,” the audience was back on its feet. The crowd — predominantly 40-plus and female — went wild over this simple, high-powered rock 'n' roll.

        During the instrumental portions of “Bring Me Some Water” and the first encore, “Like The Way I Do,” Ms. Etheridge walked out to the end of the stage and, accompanied only by her drummer, banged out the chords of the song on her acoustic guitar repeatedly and with increasing intensity. Simple, but effective at lifting the energy level another notch.

        The final encore, “Heal Me,” was — for Melissa Etheridge, at least — a low-key ending.

        Opening the show was Rosey, who flaunts her girl-next-door image while singing lyrics laced with irony. Along with some off-kilter funk, her enjoyable seven-song, half-hour set featured some dark, twisted pop songs such as “Love,” from the Bridget Jones soundtrack. With “Desperate,” Rosey proved that she sees the humor in extreme angst.


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