Melissa Etheridge led her funky rocking blues band through a ninety minute set of old and new music at the Chumash Casino Resort on one of the stormiest nights in recent memory. The evening started with a seasonal ceremony honoring the “Toys For Tots” program administered by local Marines. The concert was a fundraiser for the program and after a pious flag ceremony, a Chumash representative presented the marines with a $25,000 check. Then singer guitarist Alexander Cardinale opened the show with a short set as the well known actor showed a humorous side throughout his set, with anecdotes like the introduction of his band as a Mac Computer. The short but interesting set highlighted both his singing and songwriting talents.
After a brief intermission Etheridge and her band took the stage, adorned with a myriad of Christmas trees and festive decorations. The raspy voiced blues rocker, came out swinging literally, attacking a snare drum, while she sang “I Won’t Be Alone,” a cut from her new album This Is M.E. Then Etheridge strapped on her Les Paul for a blues drenched rendition of her hit song, “I Want To Come Over,” taking one the persona most closely associated with the raucous rocker. But Etheridge displayed surprising dexterity, moving between songs from her new album and some of her most classic hit songs from her 26 year career. In addition to drums and lead guitar, the musical maven played a mean harmonica, an acoustic 12 string Ovation guitar, and an electric 12 string Jerry Jones guitar.
Sometimes Etheridge would just concentrate on singing, letting her veteran backing guitarist, Brandyn Porter take the lead. The four backing musicians and two back-up singers all displayed exceptional musical skills. But it was former Fugees bassist and producer Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis, who stood out most in the band with his funky bass rhythms. The concert ended just as a massive front of wind and rain inundated the tiny mountain town of Santa Ynez, making for a treacherous drive back to the surrounding cities, with trees crashing across the road and electric transformers exploding in the night. It was an evening most concert goers won’t soon forget.