Still rocking

Melissa Etheridge performs sold out concert at Parx Casino’s Xcite Center, featuring hits like ‘I’m the Only One’

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

On stage: Fans had the pleasure of experiencing Melissa Etheridge in all her bluesy glory when the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter performed a sold-out show at Parx Casino’s Xcite Center. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

Most female performers go through a handful of wardrobe changes in the span of a concert. Melissa Etheridge isn’t like most.

Rather than ditch her signature all-black-everything rocker chick garb, she switches up something else at least half a dozen times — her guitar. But when several minutes of striking power chords are sprinkled into nearly every song on the setlist, having an army of instruments on hand makes perfect sense. From matte black to electric teal, fire engine red to sparkling silver, each becomes an extension of Etheridge as she loses herself in the music, taking the audience right along with her.

On Thursday, June 21, more than 1,000 lucky fans had the pleasure of experiencing Etheridge in all her bluesy glory when the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter performed a sold out show at Parx Casino’s Xcite Center.

The evening drew a crowd of mostly 40- and 50-somethings, welcoming husbands and wives, girlfriends and girlfriends, and a number of diehards flying solo. At an Etheridge show, everyone is invited for a good time.

At 8 p.m., the Xcite Center erupted in a chorus of cheers and applause as the deep, raspy voice of Etheridge sang out, “Hello, hello, this is Romeo,” the introduction to “No Souvenirs” off her 1989 sophomore album Brave and Crazy. Immediately, it was clear the 57-year-old Kansas native hasn’t lost any steam over the span of her 30-year career. If possible, she’s only gotten better.

As Etheridge transitioned to “Similar Features,” she was a fiery ball of sultry angst, blonde hair whipping about her face as she headbanged along to the floor-shaking bass rhythm. Despite her somewhat rough exterior while immersed in the song, she played the charming comedian in between tracks. The audience chuckled as she shared details of a fight that broke out backstage between her and her crew over the correct pronunciation of “Bensalem.”

Rather than simply jump from one song to the next, Etheridge did an impeccable job of easing the crowd into each, sharing personal life tidbits that inspired the respective lyrics. For example, “Let Me Go” chronicles the questionable situations most 20-somethings find themselves in while navigating the complex realm of often unhealthy relationships.

“I’ll have it with a side of trouble, yes I will,” Etheridge said of being attracted to a person that’s clearly no good.

A similar sentiment was shared for “I Want To Come Over,” which details the struggles of falling hard for someone who’s in love with someone else…and not caring.

“I’m not a stalker,” Etheridge warned, before diving into the first verse — “I know you’re home, you left your light on.” Are you sure about that, Melissa?

Up until this point, the audience was surprisingly calm, sitting down for the most part while sipping on beers and taking a picture or two on their cell phones. But this single lyric got the majority of the Xcite Center on its feet. Though the concert was hardly half-way through, “I Want To Come Over” was a show stopping moment for Etheridge, whose throaty voice reached peak perfection as she sang from a deeply emotional place. Pure chills were felt, and any goosebumps appearing on attendees’ arms weren’t from the air conditioning.

The evening chugged along with the soulful “Royal Station 4/16,” which featured a harmonica jam session (yet another of Etheridge’s talents), followed by “Nowhere To Go,” which boasts a more country-esque vibe compared to many of her other tracks. Leading into the song, Etheridge touched a little on her small-town roots, which, according to the lyrics, weren’t always supportive of this young girl with big dreams — “And they don’t understand what they don’t see, and they look through you, and they look past me.”

“There’s nothing like Kansas to make you want to go somewhere else,” she told the audience.

Etheridge then brought attention to Yes I Am, her breakthrough album that’s currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of its release in 1993. This was the same year she publicly came out as a lesbian, with the album’s title believed to be a reflection of her newly found freedom. She joked with the crowd, asking who still had the CD (or just the case) in their glove compartment, and more than a few heads bobbed “yes.” For these fans, Etheridge’s performance of “Resist,” a lesser-known track off the album, was welcomed like an old friend.

After “Chrome Plated Heart,” Etheridge re-entered the spirit of Yes I Am with one of her all-time biggest hits, “Come To My Window.” It was clear this was the moment concert-goers had been anticipating, as the handful of fans intent on standing up all evening were joined by the rest of the crowd, phones held toward the sky to capture the moment.

Following “Bring Me Some Water,” a song Etheridge said always gets confusing when she actually needs water, she (literally) rattled the roof of the Xcite Center as she belted out her other major hit, “I’m the Only One.” All inhibitions were thrown out the glass doors as fans screamed the lyrics right back. A few even broke out their own personal air guitars.

Before exiting the stage, Etheridge took a moment to instill some wisdom.

“Speak the truth. This is who I am. Strong and true,” she said. “This world needs some more love.”

Right on, Melissa. ••

Parx Casino and its Xcite Center are located at 2999 Street Road in Bensalem. For more information on upcoming shows, visit parxcasino.com/xcitecenter.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com