LIVE REVIEW: Melissa Etheridge in Lowell, MA (08.04.23)

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LIVE REVIEW: Melissa Etheridge in Lowell, MA (08.04.23)

As I was circling the block looking for parking, a group of 10-12 well-dressed middle-aged women crossed the street heading toward Lowell High School. They were the perfect representation of the Girls Night Out crowd for legendary singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge on Friday night. The show, part of the Lowell Summer Music Series, moved from Boarding House Park to the high school due to weather; although it ended up not raining that night.

A powerhouse performer, Etheridge commands the stage with her raspy vocals and impressive guitar skills. For a public high school auditorium, the sound was quite good. Backed by her band (including Danvers native Eric Gardner on drums), the 62 year-old Grammy-winner wore jeans, a cowboy hat and boots. The tight 90 minute set included the hits and some deeper cuts and lesser known tracks. She acknowledged that her fourth album Yes I Am (1993) is the one that everyone likely owned . . . on cassette (which brought lots of nods and chuckles). That album featured the power ballad “Come to My Window” and her major Billboard hit “I’m the Only One.”

Etheridge likes to share her thoughts and experiences with the audience. While performing the emotional “All the Way to Heaven,” she stated that when people ask her about favorite lyrics, she thinks about this verse: ” I wanna find me a carnival/ outside of town/ a tilt-a-whirl set up/ with a merry-go-round/ cotton candy fingers/ and a snow cone mouth/ I wanna roll you in sawdust/ til they run us both out.” Interesting choice for favorite lyric considering her large music catalog, including 14 albums.

Before playing the slower, reflective “To Be Loved” from the album Fearless Love she said: “This album is about coming alive and that certain things you learn to make life easier. They can’t be taught but have to be learned. You have to love yourself as much as you want someone to love you.” Everyone was on their feet and singing along to the chorus for “Come to My Window.” She played the bluesy “Skin Deep,” a song she rarely plays but thought that since Massachusetts audiences have supported her for 35 years, she’d play it. This song really showcased her impressive guitar skills. In the fall, Etheridge will be doing a one-woman show on Broadway called My Window: A Journey Through Life. It’s stories and music about her life and career and she enthused: “it’s nothing like you’ve seen before.” She played a raw, emotional version of “On Broadway.”

Etheridge attended Berklee College of Music for several semesters from 1979-80 and played out at Boston clubs before dropping out and moving to California. She reminisced a bit about the Boston music scene. In 2006, Berklee awarded Etheridge an honorary Doctoral degree in music and she delivered the commencement address.

“Massachusetts, continue to be awesome. Be strong. Choose only love,” Etheridge told the audience before closing out the show with a rousing “I’m the Only One.”

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