Melissa Etheridge to play Fillmore during Democratic National Convention

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:: Melissa Etheridge :: Fillmore Auditorium ::
:: August 26 ::

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By LJ Hammer

“My top career highlight? Oh, I’ve had a lot. Oh, man. That’s tough.”
Speaking with The Marquee from a tour stop in Charlotte, N. C., Melissa Etheridge took a long pause. She could have been thinking of being signed out of a club by Island Records giant Chris Blackwell (U2, Bob Marley, Steve Winwood, Jethro Tull). It might have been the first Grammy nomination for 1988’s “Bring Me Some Water.” It could have been winning a Grammy for 1992’s “Ain’t It Heavy” or the one for 1994’s mega-selling “Come to My Window.” It could have been stealing the show (along with Red Hot Chili Peppers) in front of a quarter of a million people at Woodstock ’94. It might have been making the cover of Rolling Stone.

But, true to form, her answers lay somewhere in between those milestones. “It’s a tie” she said, in a recent interview with The Marquee, “between singing with Bruce Springsteen (in 1995 for MTV’s ‘Unplugged’) and winning an Oscar (for the song ‘I Need to Wake Up,’ featured in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth).”

Etheridge has been an articulate and passionate writer and rocker since she burst upon the scene with her incendiary eponymous debut, which included “Bring Me Some Water,” “Similar Features,” “Like the Way I Do,” and “Chrome Plated Heart.” Those who were listeners to KBCO back in that era certainly remember, as the station supported Etheridge a great deal, even leading her to have the distinction of being the very first artist to play a Studio C session.

This year, Etheridge will achieve another Front Range milestone by playing the Denver Fillmore during the week of the Democratic National Convention. The gig is also a fundraiser for HRC, the Human Rights Campaign. “My management and the HRC are very close. Throughout my career we’ve done things together. So when I realized I’d be on tour and the convention was going to be in Denver while I was on tour, it was like, ‘Sign me up. I wanna be there.’ We booked the whole tour around this gig,” she said.

A supporter of progressive Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich during the primary season, Etheridge is now backing Barack Obama in the general election. “I’m with Obama because I believe he represents the biggest change. I think that multi-national corporations totally have hold of the Clintons. I believe what we need to do most is clean up our government big time, so that’s why I’m going for Obama,” she said.

The Fillmore show will see Etheridge out with her blistering band, including new keyboardist Paul Trudeau, stalwart Mark Browne on bass (since ’94), guitarist Phillip Sayce, and her original drummer, Fritz Lewak (’88-’92). “Every time Kenny (longtime drummer Kenny Aronoff) wasn’t available, I’d say, ‘We’ve got to call Fritz.’ Finally, he said yes. We fell in love all over again, and I said, ‘You’ve got to come be my drummer.’ Nobody plays like Fritz. He’s like my right hand on the guitar,” said Etheridge.

While Etheridge and band rock hard onstage, life off-stage on the road is quite a bit different than in the early years. She now tours mostly during the summer, when it’s a family affair. Wife Tammy Lynn Michaels and their toddler twins, Johnnie Rose and Miller Steven are with her. They are periodically joined by Etheridge’s older kids, Bailey and Beckett (with ex, Julie Cypher). “Touring with the family is a whole different world. It’s great. The little ones in particular are so adaptable, especially if they’re with us, they’re happy as clams. The band and the crew are great. It’s really a family,” said Etheridge.

And speaking of family, Etheridge and Michaels had a huge, lavish wedding back in 2003, but plan on making it official when they return from tour, now that the State of California has opened the rights of marriage to all couples. “My wife figured we should make honest women of one another and get the piece of paper. So when we come home from the tour this fall, we’ll make a date with the justice of the peace and have a little thing. It’s about love and family. Let’s move on now,” said Etheridge.

Consumed with themes of relationship and betrayal in her earlier work, Etheridge now paints with a much broader palette, especially since a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2004. But, the singer said that experience helped to force a change in her music toward the more spiritual themes she was only toying with earlier in her career. “Exactly. That is exactly what I’m going through. That’s exactly what is happening,” she said. “‘My Back Door’ (from 1989’s Brave and Crazy) is the beginning of my social interest and writing. The voice that wrote ‘Testify,’ ‘Keep it Precious,’ ‘I Could Have Been You,’ and ‘Silent Legacy’ is my experimenting with my higher consciousness. I’m doing more of that now than I am of the personal relationship songs … It’s not about being a rock star. That’s fun and everything, but it’s about sharing and illuminating this experience for others to see and for others to be inspired.”

:: Melissa Etheridge ::
:: Fillmore Auditorium ::
:: August 26 ::

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