Written by Dave Clements
ImageI was on a long run of nights out doing one photo shoot after another as I approached this Tuesday night event. I must admit that I wasn’t that cranked up to drive almost 70 miles into Houston’s Bayou Music Center to review Melissa Etheridge’s show.

I knew that I had other upcoming shoots both Wednesday and Thursday nights and leaving town on Friday. Making this drive during rush hour and knowing I’d seen her perform before at the Houston Rodeo had me coming up short on excitement and anticipation.

The first and only time I saw her at the rodeo was in 2006. It was easy to remember because she was essentially without hair have waged a successful battle with breast cancer. It was even more memorable because she was brought in as a last minute replacement for Sheryl Crow who had just announced that she was being treated for the same disease.

Melissa was good that night in NRG Stadium. Between her recovery from cancer and the acoustics in the stadium, sounding good that night was no small feat. Still, I convinced myself to check her out this second time. Bayou Music Center was a smaller more intimate venue and she was healthier, stronger, and would definitely be sporting a different look for my photos.

I got there well in advance of show time and the place looked empty, with just a few handfuls of people in their seats waiting for the opener to take the stage. This light turnout had me once again questioning my decision to make that drive. Did Houston fans know something I didn’t know? It wasn’t the weather as we were having an unseasonably mild beginning to December.  Maybe it would become clearer as the night moved on.

ImageWas it the opening act that no one cared to be on time to see? Alexander Cardinale was billed simply as ‘Xander’. He was likeable enough. A simple pop sounding singer/songwriter playing his acoustic guitar and singing some nice lyrics. The tunes were catchy and enjoyable. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was his “backup band’ he called Apple.

Yep, he had pre-recorded tracks on the computer as his back up instrumentation. My vote would have been for him to go it alone. He was sufficiently talented to pull it off and my belief is that the few in attendance would have appreciated him more.

Before Melissa took the stage I noted that Mayor Anise Parker (with her partner, I believe) were in attendance for the show sitting on the front row. I later learned that Etheridge tweeted about how honored she was to meet Mayor Parker, calling her ‘kind, smart, and changing the world’. I was impressed in noting that before the lights went down she stood several times for photographs and smiled in every shot. That was very classy of her especially when, in my opinion, this was an off duty ‘date night’ for her. I’d like to see my fellow citizens show more respect for the fact that she may have enjoyed some down time. Glad for a chance to vent that – now back to Melissa’s show!

With Xander off the stage and at his merch table signing autographs, I’m looking towards the doors for those herds of fans I’m expecting to come rushing through the doors any minute now. That never happened and I remained mystified.

Melissa came on in high gear, in front of this half empty venue. Was the event well promoted? Had critics panned her most recent efforts? Had she offended music lovers somehow? Did I miss the headline? I photographed her during the first song, put my camera back in my car and came back still thinking either the place was going to fill up…or I was going to witness a musical train wreck. Turns out – none of the above.

The place did not fill up, nor was there any hint of a train wreck. To the contrary, what I witnessed was a wonderful rock and roll show. What I witnessed was one kickass rocker of the first order. What I witnessed was one of the best concert efforts from a woman rocker in a very long time. Pat Benetar, Lita Ford, Joan Jett? Not one would have held a candle to Ms. Etheridge on this night!

The lady was on her A game big time and what a pleasure to just sit and observe her both with your eyes and ears.

ImageFrom the opening bell when she started with I Won’t Be Alone all the way through her encore selection Monster, Melissa did what not many can. She kept my total attention song after song, and had me tapping my feet and shaking my head. Come To My Window was one of the highlights for me as were If I Wanted To, I’m the Only One, Like A Preacher and All the Way Home. She added a little Stir It Up during the latter which was a lot of fun.

In conclusion, what I’d say is H-Town sadly missed out on one fine show. I sure wish I understood why that was the case. We need to support live music at these terrific venues. These artists, especially the caliber of Melissa Etheridge, need for folks like you and me to come out and support their craft. I was almost guilty of skipping it myself, so I can’t throw stones. I learned my lesson.  Each show is unique and can hold many terrific musical moments.

Don’t let the next opportunity pass you by!

Until next time remember there is no time to kill,