“Are you ready to be fearless?”
An intriguing and inspiring question from someone whose life has given her plenty to fear, and yet she asks with a beaming grin and a guitar riff that kicks off her Toronto installment of the Fearless Love tour. Melissa Etheridge embodies fearlessness as she sings, demanding the same from her partner: a breast cancer survivor; an out lesbian in the eye of media long before it was ‘cool’ or remotely ‘okay’; and more recently, coping with the end of her relationship with her wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels; and yet, she still exudes a joie de vivre as she delivers her two-hour show at Massey Hall.
It’s an ‘in your face’ reminder that no matter how awful life can be, it’s no reason to give in and accept defeat.
And although at times, through wink-wink comments and the lyrics of the new material, we see Melissa’s emotional wounds flash through the armour, she never dwells, choosing instead to channel her feelings, as she always has, through music. It’s why her audience is an extremely diverse group, ranging in age from teens to golden years, all sexualities, both genders: everyone has been in those same emotional shoes at one time or another. It’s an evening of misery (and love) in company – something Melissa sings about needing, as we all do. Melissa herself praises her unusually varied audience mid-performance, telling us how much she loves and appreciates us – and it is sincere. She is one of the artists who not only understands that her success stems from the fans, but also feeds on the energy, giving what she gets.
I feel particularly lucky, having seen this show, for it was opener Serena Ryder’s hometown gig; Melissa, in celebration of the woman she affectionately calls her ‘rock spawn’, brings her to the stage repeatedly during her set, the two of them performing duets of I’m The Only One, Come To My Window and Serena’s newest song (for which Melissa contributed her talents), Broken Heart Sun. It’s touching to watch Melissa’s pride as a soulful songwriter not unlike herself is given a chance to spread her wings and soar. She’s paying it forward, as the saying goes, and it is magic to behold.
As one fan noted, and I concurred, Melissa Etheridge is our generation’s Janis Joplin, and every bit a musical legend. Make it a point to see her show; it’s an experience and a lesson in the joy of live music itself.
Highlights of the set, aside from the stunning duets, included a haunting rendition of Silent Legacy, the rocking Nervous (infused with a dash of old classic tune ‘Fever’), the powerhouse main set closing pair Bring Me Some Water and Like The Way I Do, and a rousing The Different.
Setlist: Melissa Etheridge @ Massey Hall, 3/11/11