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Melissa Etheridge's tour de force moment

Live Review

Venue: Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Who needs a band? Not this one-woman show

Melissa Etheridge is unequivocal. “Every sound you'll hear tonight is produced by me!'. But she still cleverly uses technology to augment this solo performance. Mostly, it is percussive, as she claps a drum or a tambourine, then has these beats put on a rhythmic loop, while songs develops through her emotive vocals and astonishing guitar work. Cheating? No way. All this ensures is that the two hour-plus show has real depth and power.

These days, Melissa Etheridge is a consummate live artist, freely admitting tonight that, in the past she could seem almost intimidated onstage. But those days have long since gone. Now, she's confident, affable and totally in control. Etheridge knows her audience and how to raise the fever. This isn't manipulation, but empathy. As Chrome Plated Heart glides off at the start, you know this is an entertainer with a belief in her own songs. Comfortable with who she is and the type of devotees she attracts, Etheridge is relaxed and commanding, even prepared to mock the occasional shout from people in the crowd, without making it appear like a put down.

Out on her own, Etheridge revels in the space and opportunity. A lot of musicians can appear a little introspective when cut loose from their band, but not here, not now. She traverses through her catalogue and a range of eight guitars which form the backdrop. This is no gimmick. Etheridge proves herself a brilliant guitarist, reaching a crescendo on I'm The Only One, when she sets up an acoustic riff on one instrument, letting that loop develop as she straps on a double neck to deliver a devastating blues extravaganza, complemented by the occasional bark of harmonica. It's a tour de force moment, in a set littered with highlights.

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