IT didn't take Melissa Etheridge long to make the heap from cult American rock chick to Grammy winning lesbian megastar, but she certainly took her time coming on stage at the Olympia last Friday night. The audience baited restlessly in its seats while roadies practised their power chords and snare slams when the leather trousered lady herself finally appeared at a quarter past one, however, the crowd reaped the rewards of its patience.
Etheridge warmed up slowly and evenly with Unusual Kiss, letting the band feel its way around the sound and letting the audience savour the thrill of "the female Bruce Springsteen" in person. Come To My Window, from her breakthrough album, Yes I Am, and I Want To Come Over, from last year's Your Little Secret, were exuberant invitations, delivered with a throaty tempestuousness and a rough edged caress.
Once she had things well and truly kicking, Etheridge was able to put her boots up and sing a melancholy, searching ballad, Nowhere To Go, her, Kansas drawl transforming into a heart wrenching murmur. Shriner's Park was your typical "down home" tale, an impressionistic view of Etheridge's own little town of Leavenworth.
Etheridge certainly can speak the language of big American rock n roll, and she knows all the right inflections and turns of phrase to address the issues of love, life and liberty. Unlike her admitted idol, Bruce Springsteen, however, Etheridge doesn't go much for the Big Statement, preferring to deal with simple feelings and uncomplicated emotions.
In the noble tradition of giving the audience its money's worth, Etheridge carried on performing long past closing time, keeping the early hours alive with songs like Must Be Crazy and I Really Like You, and proving that, no matter how mainstream her appeal has become, the Kansas cowgirl can still get down and dirty in the middle of the night.