Review: Melissa Etheridge In Top Form With ‘This Is Me’

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Melissa Etheridge has a new album out, “This Is M.E.,” and the veteran rocker has already tested the waters in a series of solo concerts before the “This Is Me” tour begins Nov. 2.

Just nine days before the album’s release at the Fox Theatre in Riverside, Etheridge packed all the passion humanly possible into her songs, a trait that she’s shown locally since the 1980s, playing for just a handful of listeners in small L.A. clubs before fame catapulted her onto grander stages.

Etheridge got some backup help from a looper pedal that she admitted humbly takes a little practice to master. But there were no obvious missteps in finding her rhythm for the packed house at the Fox.  With her piano and a colorful sentry of 10 guitars surrounding her (she utilized all of them), Etheridge provided an intimate yet electrifying evening.

On two songs taken from the new album, cellist Neyla Pakarek from the folk band the Lumineers joined in, adding cello to “Who Are You Waiting For,” and lending her hauntingly melodic vocals to “A Little Hard Hearted,” as she does on the album.

It feels as if Etheridge is returning to her former self after a tough decade that included a battle with cancer and a brutal breakup. She also parted ways with her longtime manager, and brought in a new team that included several co-writers, a first for her.

The result is powerful collection of songs that could easily become fan favorites, such as “Like a Preacher,” “I Won’t Be Alone Tonight,” “Do It Again,” and the anthemic “Take My Number.” And of course the sentimental ballad that doubled as her wedding vows in May of this year, “Who Are You Waiting For.”

The song “Monster” might make some fans uneasy, since the word has been used to describe LGBT people in a negative light. But Etheridge embraces the label, seemingly in an effort to diffuse it.

“This Is Me” and her live performance suggest that “the old Etheridge” is back, putting music and words from the gut into her songs, and presenting them with such joy and passion that it’s a shame if you don’t see her live.

Her voice only got stronger as the night went on, culminating in an emotionally fierce encore of “Like the Way I Do.”

It’s what she does.

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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