Above: Melissa Etheridge serenades the devoted masses Tuesday. Photos by Fred Blocher/The Star
Longevity in the music business requires more than good songs and a good voice. You can't survive on material alone. Success also requires some personality and a connection with an audience that will stay with you, even when your material gets a little predictable or repetetive.
Melissa Etheridge has been in the business of music (writing, recording, performing) for nearly 25 years. Tuesday night, she illustrated why she has lasted -- survived, really -- so long.
Tuesday's show was a homecoming for the Leavenworth native; it was also a grand opening of the refurbished and renamed Midland by AMC. After cutting a huge red ribbon that spanned the stage, she christened the theater with its first live performance. For the record, the inaugural song was "All-American Girl."
The setlist would include a slew of hits and favorites, including "Nowhere to Go," You Can Sleep While I Drive," "No Souvenirs," "California," "An Unexpected Rain," "Bring Me Some Water," "I Want To Come Over," I'm the Only One," "I've Loved You Before," "I Run For Life," I Need to Wake Up" and "Come to My Window." (She favors the first person, no?) It also included her famous and dead-on cover of "Piece of My Heart."
The stage was decked out with squares of translucent fabric that were hung in back like laundry on a line and hit with various colored lights -- simple but effective. Her yeoman band sounds like they've been together for a while, and for the most part they remained in the background. During "Bring Me Some Water," Etheridge became conjoined from behind with her guitar player -- she strummed and picked his guitar while he worked the frets.
The music was enough to keep her fans happy, but Etheridge gave them more than a couple dozen anthems and ballads, all based in the roots-rock/blues tradition. Fully aware of where she was -- and perfectly clear on the distinction between Kansas and Missouri -- she talked fondly of the town and the region that produced her. She remembered coming to the Midland to watch movies -- in particular, Barbara Streisand in "Funny Girl." She talked about living on the Plaza. She rattled off names of suburbs on both sides of the state line. She praised the new downtown -- "I love what you've done with the place." And she showed much love for the Chiefs.
She also talked openly about some of her well-known relationships, including one that "turned me into a stalker." And several times she thanked everyone who has remained with her on the long journey that turned her into a star. She deserves some credit for giving them a reason to stay: Especially when she comes back home, she has a way of making her fans feel like part of her family.
| Timothy Finn, The Star