Monday nights are rather quiet in Northampton, Massachusetts but not when Melissa Etheridge is in town. “ I promise you are going to feel better when you leave here then you did when you showed up,” she told the nearly sold-out crowd at Northampton’s historic Academy of Music on April 24th.
And Etheridge made good on her word. She delivered a close to two-hour set that found her reaching back to the past; mixing her own early material alongside a selection of old blues/soul songs from her latest album, Memphis Rock and Soul.
Backed by a sturdy three- piece band, the Kansas-born singer started the night off with “Angels Would Fall ” one of the darker songs in her catalog, followed by “ No Souvenirs” from her 1989 album, “Brave and Crazy.”
At the age of 55, Etheridge’s hasn’t changed much, her voice remains at raw and powerful as ever and she continues to sing songs that deal with love, heartbreak, infidelity, and jealousy.
She has a warm, engaging stage presence and her close connection to her fans was evident throughout the night. Etheridge injected a humorous story about the crazy things we do while in love in the middle of her cover of William Bell’s, “Any Other Way.” That song nicely segued into Etheridge’s, “I Want to Come Over.”
Etheridge only played 14 songs this night but between her stage banter and penchant for jamming made for a long night. The audience roared when she sang “ Come to My Window,” but also showed their appreciation when she pulled out some tunes from the Stax catalog. Etheridge clearly loves these old songs and admitted they were a huge influence on her own music. Her take on Sam and Dave’s “Hold on, I’m Coming,” was full of passion while her cover of the Staples Singers’ “Respect Yourself (People Stand Up),” included some new lines she wrote in order to make the song more relevant to our current turbulent times.
Etheridge’s raspy voice is well suited for this classic material and these songs also gave her a chance to show off her talents as a blues guitarist especially on Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign,” on which she played an extensive solo.
Toward the end of the evening, she amped the energy level up even more with crowd favorite “Bring Me Some Water,” followed by an emotionally charged version of “ I’m the Only One,” the later featured her playing a bit of blues harp and inserting some of “Rock Me Baby” into the song. The night ended with a 15 minute ‘Like the Way I Do” that had audience members filling the aisle and dancing away. Buoyed by their enthusiasm, Etheridge frantically strummed her guitar, paced across the stage and even played drums alongside drummer Brian Delaney. It was a fitting end to a rocking night of music.