Les­bian singer rocks again

Melissa Etheridge hits At­lanta Aug. 22

GA Voice - - Front Page - By GREGG SHAPIRO

If you’ve ever at­tended a Melissa Etheridge con­cert, you know that she is a con­sum­mate en­ter­tainer. Her ca­sual and play­ful stage ban­ter re­sults in a re­laxed and friendly rap­port with the au­di­ence. She’s also a per­former who comes fully alive when she is on a stage, singing and play­ing guitar and gen­er­ally rock­ing out. Etheridge comes across as light­hearted and joy­ful, qual­i­ties that shine through, even on the most se­ri­ous of songs.

On her new DVD/CD pack­age “A Lit­tle Bit of ME: Live In L.A.,” Etheridge does a splen­did job of cap­tur­ing that energy over the course of more than two hours. She plays some new songs and lots of fan fa­vorites. She is even joined on­stage by the band Delta Rae on the songs “I’m The Only One” and “Mon­ster.” I spoke with the out mu­sic leg­end about the live set and more in ad­vance of her Au­gust 22 ap­pear­ance at the At­lanta Botan­i­cal Gar­den.

Ge­or­gia Voice: “A Lit­tle Bit of Me: Live in L.A.” is your third live al­bum. How do you know when it’s the right time to re­lease a live al­bum?

Melissa Etheridge: I don’t think I know when it’s a good time [laughs] to re­lease a live al­bum. I think the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self. One of the main rea­sons I did was be­cause I had a whole new band, new mu­si­cians. So the mu­sic pops and it sparkles and it’s new. Even if you have the Lucky Live or solo live, it’s not this band. And I think I’m get­ting bet­ter. It’s like, “See where I am now!” I don’t know when it’s time. I just knew that this was a new band, this was a great tour and the per­fect op­por­tu­nity.

The DVD opens with a Kansas tor­nado. Be­ing from the same place as Dorothy Gale, did “The Wiz­ard of Oz” have spe­cial mean­ing to you grow­ing up?

Yeah! I to­tally re­mem­ber that we’d watch it (on TV) at the same time ev­ery year, right around Hal­loween. Be­ing from Kansas, “We’re not in Kansas any­more” is the only thing that Kansas had un­til high school when we had the band Kansas. That was it. Com­ing out here (to Cal­i­for­nia), I never re­al­ized how iconic the movie is (to the gay com­mu­nity); all the un­der­tones. I would say, “I’m from Kansas. I got here via tor­nado.”

You’ve been per­form­ing songs such as “Bring Me Some Wa­ter” and “Like The Way I Do,” both in­cluded on the DVD, for more than 25 years. How do you keep them in­ter­est­ing and fresh for your­self as a per­former and for the au­di­ences?

You can see on the DVD, those songs, es­pe­cially “Like The Way I Do,” it goes into im­pro­vi­sa­tion. I love that part of it. I love guitar play­ing. I wrote both of those songs when I was still play­ing in the bars. When I was play­ing it for 10 peo­ple, wish­ing they’d want to hear it. Now when I play it, thou­sands of peo­ple scream and holler and know the song. It’s like, “Yeah, this is what I wanted. That’s what I asked for.” So it’s fun ev­ery time.

Do you make an ef­fort to per­form at least one song from each of your dozen stu­dio al­bums or has it be­come im­pos­si­ble to do that?

It is kind of im­pos­si­ble to do that. I wish I could. A two-hour set is like 15 songs. Five or six of them are the hits I want to play. That only leaves time to do a few new num­bers, I usu­ally try to get ex­tra songs from the first, sec­ond, third and fourth al­bums be­cause those are the ones that I think peo­ple re­ally lis­ten to over and over. I’ll throw in some­thing from those other years in be­tween [laughs]. I’ll try to throw in some­thing from “Fear­less Love” or “Break­down” or “Lucky.” It just de­pends on the au­di­ence.

Is there one song more than any other that you, per­son­ally, want to be re­mem­bered for?

More than any other? It kind of de­pends on where you are. If you go over­seas, that one song is “Bring Me Some Wa­ter.” That was re­ally a hit over there. “Bring Me Some Wa­ter” was huge in Europe and Aus­tralia and Canada. It’s dif­fer­ent ev­ery­where.

Ear­lier we talked about Kansas. It was fas­ci­nat­ing to watch what you found about your fam­ily on “Who Do You Think You Are?” Are you glad that you par­tic­i­pated in that show?

I loved do­ing that so much! Be­lieve me, when I saw that house in the end; that blew my mind. When the guy said that the house was still stand­ing in that lit­tle town in Mis­souri; it’s un­be­liev­able. There are all these old houses. They’ve re­ally kept it. It’s amaz­ing. It re­ally made my past come to life. When you start to re­al­ize that your an­ces­tors were real peo­ple with real sto­ries and chal­lenges and choices, it puts your own life into per­spec­tive.

Have you started writ­ing songs for your next stu­dio al­bum?

Yes. I went back in to the stu­dio for two or three days and recorded a cou­ple of songs. We’re think­ing and we’re see­ing what peo­ple are lov­ing. Noth­ing I can nail down or tell you about right now. But I’m al­ways think­ing about what’s next.

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