The Only One

SALAMANCA – Some artists will make you cringe when you hear that a show is going to be just them and a guitar. For the past couple months, I was trying to make the determination of what to expect, as that was what was billed for Melissa Etheridge’s return to Salamanca for the first time in four years. I can say I am glad I was there.

From the first guitar riff as she took the stage, surrounded by 10 other guitars, a piano, three lava lamps and a lawn gnome holding a bottle of something, this woman who has become a cultural icon took the events center from a room of strangers to a few hundred of her closest friends, sharing her emotion, her zest for life, and even her words of personal encouragement through song and through what seemed like an ongoing interaction with the crowd.

From the riff that brought her to stage until that opening riff of “Bring Me Some Water,” Etheridge proved to still have that solid rasp in her voice, with no waiver whatsoever, electrifying the audience, even though it was her with a guitar, one of many used throughout the night.

Those who are not a fan of Etheridge really missed a chance to see one of the truly amazing guitarists to be touring today. She continued to impress, even with her loop machine going to give her a solid tambourine and drum line to keep a backbeat to the songs she has rocked, at least since her debut album in 1988.

After wrapping up the song that put her on the map, Etheridge launched into the title track of her 1993 chart-topper, “Yes I Am.” As could be expected, she also hit the more familiar, “Come To My Window” and “I’m The Only One” before the night was over.

As anyone who has played a show for friends and family would do, the set list went out the window when a fan toward the front of the house held up a sign. The sign said the fan wanted to hear a particular song before she dies, requesting a “Silent Legacy.” Etheridge was very quick to oblige.

That seems to be her character. Another person in the audience held a sign that indicated she was starting out on a journey with cancer, a disease Etheridge was able to beat 10 years ago. She still offered her advice to the fan, as well as offering many words of confidence and love, telling her that she will see her the next time she is in town.

Etheridge tickled the ivories for a couple songs as well. The woman deserves to be placed in a pantheon of musicians who simply let their talents shine on the stage of the Seneca Allegany Casino’s Events Center. From acoustic to electric, from Dobro to what looked a lot like an electric mandolin, from piano to harmonica, Etheridge is masterful, knowing her art, showing her love of it with the fun and energy that she has on stage. She credits the energy to the show starting at 5 p.m., an early start for many musicians who play the Sunday show in Salamanca.

Kudos to the people at the casino for another quality act. Kudos to the crew that put on the show, and kudos to the security staff for what seems to be a trend now, of actually letting people go to the stage, something that was rare in the past. Finally, a huge kudos to Etheridge for proving to this reviewer that she is more than capable of putting on a show that completely rocked. From her Heartland rock, folk rock and blues position, Etheridge proved that she is well worth the price of admission, and then some. It has been four years since she was there with a full band. I do not want to have to wait another four years to see her again.