Melissa Etheridge, Matthew Sweet

By Mark Clark

Once upon a time, I wrote concert reviews for a certain major metropolitan daily newspaper in this town.

I like covering concerts for this smaller, monthly publication better for one simple reason: no overnight deadlines. That means I never have to rush out in the middle of a performance to file a review. And it also gives me the flexibility to reflect on a show before writing about it.

Case in point: Melissa Etheridge's performance with special guest Matthew Sweet April 3 at Louisville Gardens.

I had seen Etheridge before and knew her to be a gifted singer and dynamic live performer. And I thoroughly enjoyed her Easter night performance at the time.

But now, eleven days later, as I sit to write this review, I have to defer to my notes to come up with more than one or two memorable songs.

Easily the most impressive (and memorable) selections came midway through her 2-1/2-hour performance, when Etheridge told her backup band to take five and offered folky, solo-acoustic versions of "Ain't It Heavy," "Only Lonely" and "Occasionally."

One of her encores was inspired, as well: a rollicking cover of Rod Stewart's "Maggie May." The selection caught fans off guard, but Etheridge belted it out like she was born for the song.

Her husky, aching vocals do, in fact, recall Stewart's early sound. And Etheridge was in wondrous voice all night.

The crowd eagerly soaked up every note, and going nuts for favorites such as "Crazy for Me," "Bring Me Some Water" and "Like the Way I Do." But else nothing matched the brilliance of her "unplugged" mini-set or the sheer chutzpah of "Maggie May."

While Etheridge's performance fades with the days, Sweet's dynamic opening performance gains.

The singer/songwriter's potent blend of flashback rockers (like "Devil with the Green Eyes") and dark, soulful ballads ("Someone to Pull the Trigger") come across with more kick live.

Ex-Television guitarist Richard Lloyd gets much of the credit for that. He uglies up Sweet's pretty melodies with lurching, careening, distortion-oriented solos.

Sweet played the creme de la creme from his critically acclaimed last two albums (Girlfriend and Altered Beast). Highlights included a rough-and-tough version of "I've Been Waiting" and a wild, feedback-soaked rendition of "Superdeformed" which lived up to its name.

The only two disappointments with Sweet's performance were: 1) that it lasted a paltry 45 minutes; and 2) that more of Etheridge's fans didn't give Sweet a closer listen. It was their loss.