Melissa Etheridge delivers a far-from-your-average Christmas concert at the Mahaiwe

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GREAT BARRINGTON — On Friday night, there may have been a misapprehension on the part of some that rocker Melissa Etheridge's Holiday Show would feature Etheridge's Trio playing dainty ditties like "Little Drummer Boy" or "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," perhaps attired in those little red Santa hats with the white ball at the end.

Well, no.

Etheridge did work in a handful of holiday-based numbers during her 15-song, two-hour set at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. But this show was pretty much like any other Melissa Etheridge concert: high intensity, loud and raucous rock and roll.

Etheridge is touring in support of her latest disc, "Memphis Rock and Roll," a compilation of '60s songs mostly from the old Stax label. The album, released a few weeks ago, spent several weeks at No. 1 on the blues charts before being displaced by the Rolling Stones.

"And that's fine," said Etheridge to the audience on Friday. "I can see that."

After opening with one of those Christmas songs, the traditional "(Fa la la la) It's Christmas Time," Etheridge and her band — bassist David Santos and drummer Brian Delaney — launched into a sizzling version of blues man William Bell's "Any Other Way." The Kansas native moved smoothly into one of her own songs, "I Wanna Come Over," from 1995's "Your Little Secret."

This song seemed to be closer to what her fans were interested in, and the song clearly delighted them.

But Etheridge was just getting warmed up. Another Christmas song, "So This is Christmas" by John Lennon, segued into "Give Peace a Chance." And then, the first-half highlight: A stunning cover of Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign." complete with a monster guitar solo from Etheridge.

The second half of the show leaned more heavily on Etheridge numbers, including extended versions of "Light a Light," "Only Love," "Come to My Window" and "Bring Me Some Water." The latter song slid smoothly into the Bruce Springsteen cover of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Likewise, her thundering "The Only One" morphed into "Merry Christmas Baby," Otis Redding's 1967 classic, to close out the regular set.

The encore was a pounding "Like the Way I Do." By this time, half the theater was up in front, dancing. Not a Santa cap to be seen.

Reach Eagle staffer Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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