Etheridge rocks out in Auckland

ROCKING OUT: Melissa Etheridge put on a legendary performance at The Civic.
ROCKING OUT: Melissa Etheridge put on a legendary performance at The Civic.

Who knew The Civic was a seated venue?

When rock-pop-folk legend and Grammy award winner Melissa Etheridge shimmied onto the stage, blonde hair over her face, arched over her guitar, there wasn't a bum on a seat.

And whether it was from pulses rising as anticipation built to hear her croon her first note, or just the beat of the drum, the crowd was literally on edge.

That first note - strong, powerful, deep, rich - everything a rock artist with a flair for country and folk should have, sent shivers.

Back in New Zealand for the first time since 1996 Etheridge played in downtown Auckland last night and heads to Wellington today before skipping across the ditch on her Fearless Love World Tour from the album under the same name.

The 51-year-old lesbian icon, environmentalist and breast cancer survivor opened with her title Fearless Love track from the 2010 album and had people dancing in the aisles from the get-go.

Husky, soulful notes backed up by a thumping bass made feet tap, bottoms wiggle and shoulders shrug in an almost unstoppable way.

An amazing vocal range drew the crowd in at the right moment, left them hanging at the next, and had them whooping at the end of each song.

"I love you," she told the crowd repeatedly and each time the audience repeated her words back in a dreamy, dopey kind of way.

As well as playing songs from Fearless Love she treated fans to all of her classics including Bring Me Some Water, Come to the Window, Kiss Me and Similar Features.

These hits mainly from the 1990s were by far the best received.

In fact maybe the only time many audience members sat down was during her world debut of single Falling Up, which is off upcoming album 4th Street Feeling, due for release in September.

The Kansas-born singer brought on a half-banjo-half-guitar for the tune and said that if young rockers could turn instruments "that we used to use a long time ago" into must-have accessories for musicians today, then she could too.

Despite the new single being slightly lacklustre her ability to appeal to different generations and social groups was evident in the make-up of the audience.

Elderly men and women stood next to young couples - lesbian, gay and straight - while girls on their night out were standing next to Mums and daughters at their first concert together.

It was also refreshing to see a woman on stage owning her age and making it an asset to her talent rather than a fact-of-life that needed to be hidden and altered and moulded to suit modern-day ideals of what a lady should be like.

Etheridge really rocked the night and just as her songs are personal and intimate, so was the atmosphere she created.

At the end of the evening it was lucky that The Civic did have seats because all the legs standing up for the two hour performance needed a bit of rest after all that dancing.

Auckland Now