Several months ago, I developed a spontaneous need to listen to Melissa Etheridge while I worked. I was only tangentially familiar with her work, and I knew virtually nothing about her, but all of a sudden, Melissa Etheridge was the glue I used to pull together countless news articles and research papers during my senior year. I posited going to see her when she was at Grand Casino in Minnesota, but only in a fun, “yeah, it would be cool,” kind of way.
Well, it turned out that she just happened to playing the Riverside, Iowa casino at the same time I was headed to precisely that location for Trekfest 2015. I decided to take advantage of the coincidence negotiated between the Star Trek and lesbian gods and just roll with it.
Our seats could have been better; I sat in the back row behind a peculiarly handsy old couple, who were surprisingly frenetic for their age. Despite this unsettling and distracting phenomenon, I thought the show was great. Etheridge was full of energy and quippy stories (especially revolving around the recent Supreme Court decision to recognize gay marriage nationwide) and upliftingly triumphant. Etheridge has been married in the state of California for just over a year, “and now I’m married everywhere in this whole nation!” she said.
It was a solo show, with Etheridge providing her own accompaniment with looped bongo and tambourine rhythms (she wouldn’t move on until she had them just right) and played a diverse mix of her biggest hits, including “I’m the Only One,” “Come to My Window,” as well as selections from her new album. Her performance displayed an amazing range of emotion, from raging guitar solos that rocked way harder than any of her radio edits would suggest, to tender piano ballads. She often introduced her next piece by saying, “This is another song about love,” but what followed was so drastically different from the last song that it gave her show a constant momentum; never boring for an instant. Throughout the night, her constant theme was a lyric from “If I Only Wanted To:” “Life is full of wonder and love is never wrong.”
One of the crowd favorites was “Monster” from her new album, which boasts a backbeat that means business:
In another strange coincidence, I later learned that Etheridge headed north to Bayfield, Wisconsin for a performance at Big Top Chautauqua immediately following her Riverside show.
— Melissa Etheridge (@metheridge) June 28, 2015
Guess who else arrived in Bayfield that weekend? (It was me.) On that note: more to come on my sailing trip in the Apostle Islands in my upcoming posts.