There’s always been a soulful element to Melissa Etheridge’s rugged rock n’ roll voice, but when she recently dropped the album “MEmphis Rock and Soul” (emphasis intended) and embarked on the subsequent tour, that underlying influence pool finally came to full fruition. For those who packed Chicago’s Park West (on a night when the Cubs battled in the World Series no less), the singer/songwriter/guitar slinger made an airtight case she would’ve fit right at home next to Otis Redding, The Staple Singers and Sam & Dave on the charts, in spite of her commercial conquest falling closer to the late ‘80s through the 2000s.
And for at least ten minutes during “Like The Way I Do,” they operated as a lean, mean unit just as capable as sticking to the script as veering off into spontaneous soloing, which was one more example in a night of several that would surely have made all her boundary-breaking heroes proud.
In fact, all anyone had to do was hear her smoldering rendition of the latter’s “Hold On I’m Comin’” to be convinced of that authentic stature, which was not only carried by her glorious howl and meaty licks, but also some rousing support from a nine piece cast of multi-cultural singers and musicians. Etheridge even remarked at one point in the nearly two hour night that Stax was the place where artists of any race could come together and she was thankful to be carrying on that tradition in front of an equally diverse audience.
The headliner also updated the words ever so slightly to fit with the times come Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” and The Staples’ “Respect Yourself,” though the amendments were nonetheless met with the utmost reverence for the original singers and composers. Yet out of all the long lost greats, Etheridge seemed to have the most affinity for Redding, and while she was extremely passionate in her interpretations of “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now),” she actually seemed most at home during Albert King’s bluesy “Born Under A Bad Sign.”
Although “MEmphis Rock and Soul” comprised much of the set list, the veteran still touched on a handful of her most famous hits and fan favorites, adapting a slight Stax flavor to the likes of “I Want To Come Over,” “Come To My Window” and “Bring Me Some Water.” She also added loads of extra spice to “I’m The Only One,” which included an incredibly clever and compatible detour into B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby.”
After reprising “Hold On” and pretending like she wouldn’t come back (complete with a cape routine straight out of James Brown’s playbook), Etheridge along with her core rock band returned for “Like The Way I Do.” And for at least ten minutes, they operated as a lean, mean unit just as capable as sticking to the script as veering off into spontaneous soloing, which was one more example in a night of several that would surely have made all her boundary-breaking heroes proud.
Click here for more Melissa Etheridge photos from the Park West.
For additional information on Melissa Etheridge, visit MelissaEtheridge.com.
For a list of upcoming shows at the Park West visit JamUSA.com.