Melissa Etheridge performing her Yes I Am 25th Anniversary Tour at The Town Hall Birmingham on Thursday 21st February 2019

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Melissa Etheridge, the Kansas born singer songwriter and guitarist, was at the Birmingham Town Hall last night to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of her breakthrough album, Yes I Am, which spent 138 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts.

But before this almost capacity crowd were truly entertained, many of them filled the Hall to see English musician Lucy Spraggan, who auditioned for the X Factor in 2012 but had to withdraw due to illness.  That did not deter this very talented singer who writes all of her own songs and whose fourth studio album will be released later this year.

Getting an extremely warm reception as she started her set with Fight For It from her 2017 album I Hope You Don’t Mind Me Writing, she was very quickly into her groove.  Entertaining with her between song stories, she told the crowd that she had written Don’t Know Nothing About The Blues after she was heckled whilst performing in a Blues bar.

Tea And Toast from her 2013 album Join The Club had the crowd swaying together in unity as did the title track from that album.  But with a new album due for release in May, she was given the opportunity to showcase some of her new songs.  Finishing with Dinner’s Ready and Home Wasn’t Built In A Day, Spraggan showed what an amazing songwriter she is.

With her confident and energetic performance, it is clear that she has a great career ahead of her.

When the Grammy award winning Etheridge took to the stage, many of her adoring fans leapt to their feet and cheered with delight the second that she appeared.  Opening with the celebratory All American Girl, her raspy rock voice was instantly recognisable.  There were other beloved songs from the album, such as If I Wanted To, Ruins, Silent Legacy, and the title track, Yes I Am, all of which had her fans enthusiastically singing along as she stunned on stage with her outstanding range, strength and vivacity.

But it was not just her voice that was impressive.  Joined by a terrific band that at times seemed superfluous as she frequently put down her guitar to play percussion, piano and for set closer Bring Me Some Water, even the drums.

Throughout the evening Etheridge’s stage presence and ability to draw in the crowd, through her lyrical and narrative performance was unique.  Telling stories as she switched guitars, she praised her father for driving her around to perform as a youngster; she told of her experience of coming out as a lesbian in the early nineties and her triumphant battle with cancer, which all just served to endear her to this already captivated audience.

A particular highlight was her performance of her 1955 hit, I Want To Come Over, which was stunningly pitch perfect and astonishingly powerful.  But her slower songs also hit the spot with a requested song not on her set list, You Can Sleep While I Drive and Talking To My Angel both of which were simply outstanding.

And in contrast to the free flowing confidence of her established favourites, she was sweetly apprehensive about premiering a new song from her forthcoming album, The Medicine Show.  She need not have worried as Wild And Lonely went down a storm.

Closing the set with a passionate salvo of the brilliant Come To My Window, a blues strut with I’m The Only One and the rhythmic rocker, Bring Me Some Water, she proved that she is a legend amongst her peers.

Lead guitar skills were on extreme display with her encore song, the 1988 hit Like The Way I Do, with Etheridge turning the Town Hall into an absolute rock house for this ten minute tirade, which also saw her joining the drummer on his kit towards the end.