All you can wish for from an artist is that they perform like they give a damn. And that is what Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge, separately and briefly together, did with great passion and no little skill at Auckland’s Trusts Arena last night.
Crow was first on the bill, taking the stage with a big band – two guitarists, a third pedal steel guitar, plus bass, keyboards and drums. She took us through a selection of her best known songs – Every Day is a Winding Road, If it Makes You Happy, Soak Up the Sun and others – and threw in Halfway There from her most recent album of two years ago. Her voice was strong, the band tight, and there was little to fault the performance. She threw in a few self deprecating remarks about her age (she’s 56) and at one point referred to herself as a dinosaur, and proud to be so. A brief lament on Donald Trump saw her collapse on the stage in mock despair, and she had a reminder for us of her New Zealand connections, recalling how she opened for Crowded House back in the 1990’s. A brief taste of Don’t Dream It’s Over slipped into one song.
She referred to being a mum a few times, and as if to reinforce the point her two young songs brought a guitar out for her at one point. They’d spent the day on Waiheke Island and loved it. A few other references to how wonderful our country started verging towards the too saccharine for me, but her performance overshadowed all that. Crow played acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards, bass and harmonica, and above all else had that California rock vibe (even thought she’s from Missouri) that I’ve always associated with her. Good strong catchy rock songs and ballads, with riffs that seem to settle somewhere between the Stones and the Eagles. Her voice sometimes gets into soulful almost bluesy territory, which I enjoy the most, but otherwise it’s as you may recall it from her records.
At the end of Sheryl Crow’s set Melissa Etheridge joined her on stage for a cover of The Allman Brothers’ Midnight Rider. Nice to see the two together, and a taster for what was to come. During the interval one concert goer behind me discussed how she knew Crow’s songs better and wondered if the order of the acts should have been reversed. The thought had crossed my mind too, but boy did I get that wrong.
Etheridge’s set opened with the lights on just the drum kit, and a long blonde haired drummer, kicking off with a solo. It was Etheridge. She moved aside to let her drummer take over, and then, joined by bass player and keyboards, treated us to a full on, stirring performance of rock. Etheridge’s famous voice was in good form, and her guitarmanship was superb. She proudly prowled the stage, as if to stand and deliver. The guitar solos were there, but with some songs, such as the epic Bring Me Some Water, she played rhythm as if it was lead, a wonderful exhibition of feeling the tempo and drama of a song and riding its emotions.
Later she again took to the drum kit, this time standing next to her drummer and playing at the same time as him. It was virtuoso stuff.
Like Crow, there was plenty of talk of how great New Zealand – again, a little too much for my liking – but she also laughed at her own veteran status. A reference to a cassette tape did that nicely. And a whimsical reference to how you wonderful love can be and how sure you can be that THIS is the real thing, before pausing to add this was only after two weeks (a big laugh ensued here) revealed an artist who doesn’t take herself too seriously.
I’ve got to say Melissa Etheridge gave one of the best all out masterful rock performances I’ve ever seen. Her set flew by, and you wanted more. That’ll be enough to see her again, should she grace our shores once more.
Steve and I both attended the show, with Steve taking photos for Crave. Here’s his selection from the night.