She didn’t have much fanfare, but she didn’t need any. When Melissa Etheridge crept onto the stage at Mile One Centre Saturday night, she could have been mistaken for a band member.
That is, if the crowd in the floor seats hadn’t noticed, and hadn’t rushed the stage in excitement.
Etheridge performed to a nearly sold-out half venue at Mile One, to an audience that couldn’t have been more excited to see her if they were all 16 and she was Justin Bieber. Whether she was singing songs from her 1988 self-titled debut album or last year’s “Fearless Love,” the crowd — or at least those in the floor section — knew every word.
Etheridge told The Telegram weeks ago the show was going to be a greatest hits-type of concert, and she was true to her word: “Bring Me Some Water,” “Come to My Window,” and “I’m the Only One” got audience members standing, dancing and filming her with their cellphones. Her newer tunes blended in well, from the “Fearless Love” title track to “Nervous,” which she mixed with the 1950s hit “Fever.” “Gently We Row” was the only noticeable oddball song, a soft ballad, but it worked, since she performed it as her only encore, and it was beautiful.
Etheridge, along with her three-piece band, played for about two hours, with no loss of energy — at one point, the veteran rocker put down her guitar and hopped up on her drummer’s platform, grabbed a set of sticks and played along with him while standing behind him. Between extended riffs and on-stage antics, a couple songs were stretched to nearly 15 minutes.
One of the highlights of the show was when Etheridge called opening act Serena Ryder back to the stage to perform their duet “Broken Heart Sun.” As in her interview with The Telegram last month, Etheridge had no shortage of praise for the Canadian Juno-winning singer/songwriter.
“She sears them, heats them up, burns them up, because she is something incredible,” Etheridge said while introducing Ryder back to the stage.
In between songs, Etheridge spoke of her children, of growing up in the Midwest United States, and of her battle with cancer.
“I was specially chosen to experience cancer … but I’ve been cancer-free for six years. It’ll take more than that to get rid of me,” she told the audience. “Unfortunately, wherever I go, it’s something that touches everybody — so let me give a shout out to all my survivors out there.” Etheridge then launched into her breast cancer iconic anthem, “I Run for Life,” drawing a crowd to the stage again.
She spoke a lot about Newfoundland, calling it “The Rock” and commenting on its seclusion, and saying she’d been here once, 20 years ago. She promised to return sometime over the next decade.
“I really want to say, I wanted to come back sooner than 20 years, but things happened. You know, kids and this one and that one. It’s complicated,” said Etheridge, who has had her share of ups and downs over the past two decades, including the births of her four children and the break-ups of two long-term partnerships.
“You all just got your own colony up here and you’re breeding beautiful people. The Rock rocks.”