Melissa Etheridge fearlessly rocks Bangor Waterfront

Posted July 23, 2011, at 8:50 p.m.
Last modified July 24, 2011, at 5:59 p.m.
Melissa Etheridge comes on stage at the Bangor Waterfront Concert Series Saturday, July 23, 2011.
Michael C. York
Melissa Etheridge comes on stage at the Bangor Waterfront Concert Series Saturday, July 23, 2011.
Melissa Etheridge performs at the summer concert series on the Bangor, Maine waterfront Saturday, July 23, 2011.
Michael C. York
Melissa Etheridge performs at the summer concert series on the Bangor, Maine waterfront Saturday, July 23, 2011.

“Good evening, Bangor!” Melissa Etheridge said as she began her Saturday night concert on the Bangor Waterfront. “Are you ready to be fearless?”

Several thousand people braved the 90-degree heat to attend Etheridge’s concert, the Waterfront’s second this month, including the Toby Keith concert two weekends ago. For nearly 20 years, the singer-songwriter has topped the charts and inspired fans with her soulful rock and outspoken support of gay rights, cancer research and the environment.

Attendees sported breast cancer awareness buttons, Equality Maine stickers and concert-tested T-shirts, like Kim Alcala of Brewer, who had a mid 90s-era Etheridge shirt on.

“The way she plays that guitar, she just wails. She smiles. She connects with the audience. She makes you feel like she’s singing just to you,” said Alcala, a fan since Etheridge’s earliest albums. “She’s just amazing. She’s so powerful.”

Etheridge began the show with “Fearless Love,” the title track from her most recent album. She then segued into one of her biggest hits, “I Want To Come Over,” which elicited huge cheers from the crowd. A laid-back, talkative performer, she engaged the audience with stories about visiting Stephen King’s house upon her arrival in Bangor today, about turning 50 years old this year and about the oppressive heat that’s blanketed the eastern U.S. for the past week.

“You think this is hot? This is not hot. I was just in Nebraska. This isn’t hot at all. You guys have it good,” Etheridge said in between songs.

Cap’n Nemo’s in Bass Harbor had booths both inside and outside the stage area, and employees Amethyst Cousins and April Blain were set up on the grass, selling cold drinks out of a kiddie pool filled with ice.

“We’ve been selling tons of drinks today,” said Cousins. “Everyone’s just trying to stay hydrated. We’re also selling fruit kabobs, which have been a big hit. It’s good for the hot weather.”

Etheridge didn’t seem to mind the heat, sporting black jeans, a sparkling burgundy-colored jacket and a black 12-string guitar. Some other songs she performed included fan favorites like “No Souvenirs,” “Ruins,” “The Different” and “Precious Pain,” as well as other big hits like a funked-up version of “If I Only Wanted To,” inspiring a crowd singalong of the “whoa-oh, whoa-oh” part of the song.

“I think a lot of people here have been really inspired by her for a long time,” said Crystal Shain of Waterville, who described herself as a lifelong fan. “She’s definitely inspired me.”

Etheridge herself seemed to enjoy the audience, who responded with screams and cheers at her easy, conversational onstage style.

“I knew you guys would be a blast. I knew you’d be a lot of fun,” she said. “I get why you’re here. It’s gorgeous, it’s beautiful. Maybe not in February. But right now? Beautiful!”

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