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Melissa Etheridge has always poured her heart and soul into her music, so it’s no surprise that the same depth of emotion permeates her shows. Playing for nearly 2 1/2 hours at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Wednesday, the performer made the evening as much of a therapy session as a concert.
Having been on the scene for a quarter of a century, she qualifies as one of rock’s elder, or at least middle-aged, stateswomen, and she makes no bones about it. “I’m 51 and I’m loving it!” she cried at one point, in an example of the Oprah-like confessionals strewn throughout the evening.
She’s touring to support her latest CD, 4th Street Feeling, which features a heavier blending of soul, country and blues influences than usual for her. She performed the vast majority of it during the show, which also included such fan favorites as “I Want to Come Over,” “Bring Me Some Water,” “I’m the Only One” and “Like the Way I Do.”
It’s a strictly no-frills affair, with the singer backed by a terrific four-piece band that at times seemed superfluous, considering that she frequently put down her guitar to play accordion, keyboards, piano and, for “Bring Me Some Water,” even the drums.
Her powerhouse vocals so reminiscent of Janis Joplin have only seemed to have gotten stronger with age, and her guitar playing has taken on a harder, aggressive edge that she seemed eager to show off via numerous extended solos.
She frequently punctuated her songs with lengthy narrative asides which made them feel even more personal. When the crowd cheered during her extended version of “I Want to Come Over,” she confessed, “I’m glad I’m not alone in my misery.” And after another typically relationship-centric number, she wryly commented, “Oh yeah, like you’re gonna take relationship advice from me.”
But it was her introduction to “I Run for Life,” inspired about her well-publicized battle with breast cancer, that garnered the most powerful response of the evening. “I wrestled with that beast called cancer,” she said, before triumphantly adding, “I can now tell you I’m now nine years cancer free!” She proceeded to deliver a deeply emotional rendition of the song that exemplified this durable rocker’s indomitable spirit.
I Want To Come Over
4th Street Feeling
Chrome Plated Heart
Shadow Of A Black Crow
Enough of Me
A Sacred Heart
Your Little Secret
I Can Wait
I Run For Life
Rock & Roll Me
I’m The Only One
Bring Me Some Water
Like The Way I Do
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