Touring in support of her 12th studio album, Melissa Etheridge had the Pabst Theater feeling like a reunion.
Melissa Etheridge’s near sold-out performance Wednesday night was anything but impersonal. The quaint ambiance at the Pabst Theater made for the perfect stop on the Grammy winner’s solo tour, titled after her 12th and newest album, This is M.E. She laughed when she said, “Because after 50, it’s all about me.”
Milwaukee’s warm embrace of Etheridge had the room feeling like a reunion. The 54-year-old rocked out on more than a half-dozen instruments amid a sea of vibrant lava lamps and flickering candles. All sounds emanating from the stage were organic, generated by rhythms on drums, tambourines, and hollow wooden surfaces before she finally grabbed a guitar and provided the necessary vocals. By the time she got to strumming, the crowd was already keen to what was coming next, and the suspense that came with each new song emerging was part of the fun.
Classic hits like “Come to My Window” and “I Want to Come Over” kept attendees on their feet, and new collaborations like “Ain’t That Bad” proved she hasn’t lost her rock n’ roll touch. Her set included everything from piano covers to acoustic country to upbeat blues. While some might fear going out of their element, Etheridge is far from a niche artist. One performance is all you need to be convinced: This woman can do anything.
Between songs, Etheridge shared laughs, personal experiences and her love for the Green Bay Packers (as if she didn’t already have us in the palm of her hands). Her success was not lost on anyone listening to her recollections of humble beginnings. During her cover of “Weakness in Me,” she recalled her pre-stardom days – ones in which she performed in bars and patrons could pay $1 to listen to Etheridge all night – which made the crowd squeal. With hundreds of fans grasping onto her every word, there was no ignoring how far she’d come.