REVIEW: Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridge @ Margaret Court Arena
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REVIEW: Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridge @ Margaret Court Arena




Sheryl Crow is opening?” The words of my friends – none of whom have heard of Melissa Etheridge but all of whom are very familiar with Crow’s 'All I Wanna Do' – stick in my head throughout the opening songs of Sheryl Crow’s set. To headline above someone who has sold over 50 million records suggests an artist with a seriously big and dedicated following. Crow dispatches with that hit early on in her set, along with 'A Change Would Do You Good'. It seems like a bold move, but, like so many great songwriters, or performers who are very good at finding collaborators, it’s easy to forget just how many well-known songs Crow has performed. While that’s a big part of what’s brought her here, the low energy crowd and the early time-slot mean that Crow has to lean on her charisma to win us over.

REVIEW: Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridge @ Margaret Court Arena

“Thank you for being here instead of at the footys,” she says with a wilful clumsiness, referring to the Carlton v Collingwood game taking place a few hundred metres away. “I’m not sure who is playing but I’m rooting for Melbourne.” After some back and forth with the audience, who are eager to correct her playful misunderstandings of the game, she plays 'My Favourite Mistake', her Cat Stevens cover of 'The First Cut Is The Deepest' and 'Strong Enough' all received with increasing enthusiasm.

REVIEW: Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridge @ Margaret Court Arena

Much of Crow’s set feels like music that would soundtrack a montage sequence from a 90s romantic drama involving rain, missed chances that precedes an inevitable reunion. And it suggests a familiarity that you don’t mind revisiting. Songs that weren’t meticulously edited on a laptop and compressed for tiny speakers, from a time when politics was boring and films didn’t need to have gross-out comedy to be funny and sweet. It might not have been a better time for everyone, but, for the people in Margaret Court Arena who mumble their way through the verses then belt the chorus of 'If It Makes You Happy', it’s an era to which they love returning.

REVIEW: Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridge @ Margaret Court Arena

A place to which Melissa Etheridge is very happy to return is Melbourne. “I love what you’ve done with the place,” she says to laughter and applause. “When I first came here and stayed at the Como, there were fields next to it.” She has us all onside even before she updates us with the footy score and starts her opening song, 'Your Little Secret', but she does want to set things straight about the woman whose name adorns the venue. Throughout the night Margaret Court is promised a headache, to be driven crazy with music, and the audience are exhorted to “let’s give her a nervous breakdown”. Etheridge’s good friends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova are both pointedly given love, and the mostly female audience are in vocal agreement. Older songs 'No Souvenirs' and 'Similar Features' are lovingly received, and the first of several lengthy reinterpretations follows with 'You Used To Love To Dance', during which she faces her guitar head-on and dances erotically while plucking out notes. Whether on an electric or acoustic 12-string guitar, Etheridge loves the space to deploy a rambling bluesy solo and her tight bar-band keep the songs moving while her choppy riffs and chiming lead lines ring out. It’s intoxicating stuff.

REVIEW: Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridge @ Margaret Court Arena

“Relationships,” she says self-explanatorily to a cheering fans. “It took me until my 50s to figure them out, but I got a lot of really good songs from them on the way.” Etheridge has made a career from applying her raspy urgent voice to tales of being jilted, overlooked, abandoned or replaced as a partner, despite most accounts of her long-term relationships being ones of amicable separation. But whatever catharsis songs about wanting lovers to come to her window, to come over to their house, or being the only one that will walk across the fire for them, offer, it’s been spent. The pleas and exhortations, while passionately played and rapturously received, are about memories. So it shouldn’t work. But it does, over and again, and that is down to Etheridge’s joy at being on stage, the crowd who look as though they would drown in their desire for her, and, as with Sheryl Crow’s set, their power to evoke a time when emotions trumped sensibilities. The band close the set with a raucous version of 'Bring Me Some Water' complete with a lot of acoustic guitar foreplay and screams of recognition that last long into the opening verse.

REVIEW: Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridge @ Margaret Court Arena
PHOTO CREDIT: Mal Cook

Returning for the encore adorned in a rainbow-striped AFLW pride guernsey and a pledge to catch some of the women’s games next time she’s in town, Etheridge launches into a lengthy and joyous 'Like The Way I Do', which sees her take a turn on the drums, harmonica and her guitar. “Life’s too short not to live like an Aussie,” she laughs during a breakdown in the song and after contemplating a “speccy” on the back of drummer. “Speccy? Is that right? You Aussies really don’t like long words do you?”. All we can do is cheer.

REVIEW: Sheryl Crow & Melissa Etheridge @ Margaret Court Arena
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