Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Melissa Etheridge Still Rocking the House

(Link) How excited are concert goers about Melissa's electrifying performances? " "Oh, God," says one fan. "I had to take a Xanax just to come to the show." No stats yet on how many tons of hotel keys and undies they have to sweep off the stage post performance.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Alanna Nash
USA Today

It's a typical Thursday night at a concert late this summer in Virginia Beach, Va. Except it's a Melissa Etheridge show, which means it's hardly routine.

"I'll give you my car for that backstage pass, and I'm not kidding," says Gina Palatini, a 37-year-old divorced mother of two, proffering the keys to her 1999 Ford Expedition. Her sister Bethany, 24, is more excited about this than about her upcoming wedding. "Oh, God," she moans. "I had to take a Xanax just to come to the show."

At 41, Etheridge continues to draw large crowds, even though her last big radio hit was 1995's "I Want to Come Over". She has reached cult status, and her fans would come even if she hadn't had a record out in a decade. In the summer of 2001, she often appeared solo onstage for nearly three hours, with no backup musicians and no opening act. Her "Live ... and Alone" concert DVD from that year's tour was released Tuesday.

"When I stepped out [onstage], I was completely vulnerable, at my most bare," Etheridge says. "I learned that people come to the shows not for the hugeness of the music or some special effect, but because they like the songs and like being entertained by me."

This year, Etheridge traveled with two opening acts, Meredith Brooks and a newcomer, Rosey. "There's just not anybody doing what she's doing now," Rosey says. "Rock 'n' roll for women has been dead for so long by industry standards, but she continues to do what she does."

The leather-clad Etheridge is, in fact, a throwback to the forceful, no-holds-barred musicians of the '60s and '70s. Audiences find her music a perfect vessel for raw emotion, barely contained passion and personal politics. "She's the Bruce Springsteen of women rockers," says Scott Shannon of WPLJ radio in New York. "She writes with a conscience and captures the essence of humanity."

The singer became a champion of gay rights when she came out at a 1993 Clinton inauguration party. But "trying to force her songs into the mold of gay/ lesbian anthems [is] both misguided and unnecessary," writes a male customer on Amazon.com. Such tunes as "Bring Me Some Water" convey universal heartache, and Etheridge has been successful at attracting listeners of all orientations because of her omission of third-person pronouns. She estimates that her concert crowd is half gay, half straight.

Fan Wendi Schwartz, 43, believes the lesbian quotient is higher. "It took an amazing amount of guts for her to come out. That's what I love most about her."

If her sexuality has been largely veiled in her lyrics, Etheridge is public about it elsewhere. Her autobiography, "The Truth Is ...", now out in paperback, details her painful split from longtime partner Julie Cypher, a director she met in 1988 when the two worked on the video shoot for her first single. Cypher later bore the couple's two children, daughter Bailey, 5, and son Beckett, 3, who Etheridge says were fathered by rocker David Crosby through artificial insemination. Today the women share custody.

"Our great country won't allow me to get married, but it will sure let me get divorced," Etheridge says of the tax penalties for couples unprotected by marriage laws. "I get taxed for anything I give to her, and she gets taxed for it, too. What the heck is our crazy government thinking?"

That blend of practicality and political activism makes her an ideal spokeswoman for the cause, says friend Tom Hanks. "Melissa is a startling good example of 'Well, why not? What's the big deal?' " says the actor. "And what do we stand for in America if not acceptance of something as personal and authentic as that?"

Today she credits her girlfriend, actress Tammy Lynn Michaels, for a creative renewal ("I'm writing the sexiest, coolest songs I've ever written") and for support after her relationship with Cypher ended.

"I jumped into my deepest fears, and I've been rewarded immensely. I have a new home and new life," she says. "Celebration -- that's where I am in my journey."