REVIEW: A lot of love in the room for Melissa Etheridge

I have a confession to make: I used to have a crush on Melissa Etheridge. It was a little disappointing when she turned out to be gay, but then I’d just fantasize I was a lesbian and the infatuation continued. She is beautiful inside and out. Basking in her warm, open-hearted presence and grooving on her formidable rock ‘n’ roll mojo at the Jubilee Auditorium on Sunday night (Feb 20) has only rekindled my passions.

Melissa Etheridge

See, I used to date a woman who cheated on me with another woman, which I didn’t think would be as bad as if she’d done it with a guy, but it was. So I broke up with her. Two years later, she’s married – to a guy – and pregnant. I think I scared her straight. It’s kind of the opposite of the Latino machismo where it’s allegedly a great honour when your ex-girlfriend dumps you for a woman. No other man can be the equal of me, the guy might say, puffing out his chest.

Well, that’s what she said.

There was a lot of love in the room at this concert – and not just from me. The fans absolutely adored Melissa. She could do no wrong. And she didn’t, starting with Fearless Love and pounding through her catalogue of empowering anthems with  a tight three-piece band. There were songs of desire (I Want to Come Over), songs of sorrow (Unexpected Rain) and songs that merely stated her sexual orientation (Yes I Am). The crowd – a lot of female couples there – loved every minute of it.

Toronto’s new folk queen Serena Ryder primed the pump nicely with a set of seduction music. The lesbians were enthusiastically singing along to a song called Weak in the Knees: “Would you mind if I walked over and I kissed your face in front of all your friends? Would you mind if I got drunk and said, ‘I wanna take you home to bed,’ oh, would you change your mind?”

Great. Now I have a crush on Serena Ryder. I don’t think she’s gay, but it doesn’t matter: her songs are universal. We don’t discriminate here. Nothing seemed awkward. Everyone felt welcome. Melissa saw to that pretty quick, offering increasingly raucous tidbits of wisdom like “If I don’t love me, who’s going to love me?” and “be yourself.” Seems obvious, really. At one point a female voice was heard to shout, “I wanna have your baby!” I puzzled over that one a moment. Etheridge didn’t hear.

Beyond her music, which comes alive on stage, elongated, twisted and extended into long jam sections for a far better result than what can be heard on record, Etheridge is a hero in many ways to many people – a pro-gay activist, a breast cancer survivor working for breast cancer awareness, activist for social justice, friend of President Obama. You could’ve played a drinking game: Take a swig every time she makes a pro-gay remark. By the time I Want To Come Over rolled around, I was drunk.

Not really. They don’t allow drinking inside the auditorium.

There was only that lingering afterglow.