Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 | Red Bank, New Jersey

Review by Danny Coleman

The stage looked like a garage rehearsal space, very comfortable with faux lava lamps, large scarf like cloths with designs and soft lighting; framed by a classic rock soundtrack, welcoming all as they filtered into Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre. A quick inventory revealed nine guitars (two of which were of the double neck variety), a grand piano, an amp and a whole lot of anticipation of what was to come.

The predominantly female audience lined the front of the stage; taking pre-show selfies until the house lights dimmed and the dull murmur which permeated this small New Jersey venue became a deafening roar. There was no doubt who they were there to see and when Melissa Etheridge took the stage at 8:05 p.m., acoustic guitar in hand to the weighted strums of “Ain’t It Heavy,” the deafening roar was accompanied by a stampede of fans anxious to get near the front of the stage. Cell phone video, pictures and attempts to push closer kept security busy and Etheridge, seemingly enjoying the adrenaline rush plowed forward strong and undeterred by the chaos which surrounded her. A sly smile and wide-eyed looks were enough to keep the raucous crowd, now at a fever pitch at bay as she welcomed her fans at the tune’s completion.Melissa 9

“Take My Number” was followed by “Ruins” and Melissa showed no signs of slowing down, even as the denizens slowly filtered back to their seats; she knew that they were hers on this night. Prior to “Ruins,” Etheridge introduced us all to her new musical toy but only after playfully teasing some well-wishers in the crowd with her response to what she hears on stage versus what they actually yell out. Sounding briefly like a character from “The Muppet Show,” Melissa couldn’t help but laugh as she offered her version of a reply and picked up an Irish Bodhran drum and began to play an almost tribal rhythm. Her attempts were interrupted by the crowds over eager few, which she shrugged off with a laugh as she was going through a looping process; capturing the beat and recording it for playback. The Tambourine was next added in an offset pattern which added brightness to the otherwise dark of the tune.

Changing up rhythmic patterns once again, Melissa joking said, “I call this playin’ with myself,” as the crowd laughed in unison and one overzealous patron asked if she needed help. Busting into “Royal Station 4/16” Melissa was on fire as this one woman show was really picking up a head of steam. Her use of today’s technology, her playful disposition, and her gritty style were making for a perfect combination on this night at this intimate venue. Joking that in, “1988 you were alive but your hair was completely different,” “Occasionally” was up next as she turned her guitar around and pounded out the songs rhythm pulse with bare palm on its back and sang the haunting lyrics to perfection.

Allowing the applause to die down and in total command of the stage, Etheridge gave the crowd a little tale about growing up and getting into trouble. “I stopped getting in trouble when I was fifty,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not in trouble anymore. I know you all know what I mean; that’s why you bought the record!” As she broke into “I Want To Come Over,” the crowd once again cascaded to the stage like a wave heads to shore. Melissa wasted no time in rockin’ this one hard as the sing along had begun, stopping only when she raised an extended arm, head bowed under a single spotlight daring the crowd to push her forward. A sudden shift to the chorus of her pal Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” brought her out of the dramatic pause and quickly back into her tune.

A revved up fan base was quieted as Etheridge made her way to the piano and relayed a lengthy story about “Who Are You Waiting For.” “These were my wedding vows,” she started; “The first time I ever played this song was at my wedding. There’s nothing more intimate than that,” she said with a laugh.Melissa 5

The softness of a beautiful ending was shattered by applause as Melissa quickly transitioned back to guitar for “Your Little Secret” and “Like a Preacher.” Once through those two, it was time to work the crowd up once again and she did so beautifully. Switching back to a twelve string acoustic guitar; Melissa performed a great interlude showing off her improved fretboard skill set before launching into the one time mega hit “Come To My Window.”

“Ain’t That Bad,” was followed by a transition back to the piano for the eloquent “The Letting Go,” yet again quieting a raucous yet mesmerized crowd.

“Since we are in Jersey, I’d like to bring out two of my band mates who are from Jersey” and with that she introduced Arden Altino and Jerry Wonda who took their places behind the piano and a bass guitar. The audience, never allowed to get comfortable, were brought to their feet once again by the opening lead in of “I’m The Only One,” in which she used an impromptu piano and harmonica solo to extend this crowd pleaser buoyed further along by a nifty electric guitar solo; once again showing off her lead playing abilities.

Breaking out her Dobro style guitar and slide, accompanied by a dynamic bass line, “Monster” was next on tap and definitely carries the WOW factor. A bass guitar driven tune that thumps harder than a playground bully and is interspersed with fabulous slide guitar; this could be the one that works its way up the charts.

“Bring Me Some Water” closed out the fifteen song set and as she and her band mates took a bow at 9:59 p.m., one knew that she wasn’t through just yet. After a two minute wait, she burst back on stage in much the same way she did nearly two hours earlier, acoustic guitar in hand strumming powerful, driving chords; this time they were “Like The Way I Do.” Joined again by Altino and Wonda, Etheridge took this song to its limits, pounding it out for approximately ten minutes and ending the night on a high note; sending her sweat drenched fans into the Red Bank evening happy and wanting more.

Overall, the show was truly well done. Etheridge really utilizes technology and brings the tracks off of her great new album This Is M.E. to life in a way that allows this talented artist to bare her various sides while maintaining her persona; that of a rocker who takes no prisoners.
To discover more about the “This Is M.E. 2015 Tour,” please see links below.





Melissa Etheridge makes it “Count” at the Basie
4.7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

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