Live...and powerful

By Margaret Coble

Originally published on Advocate.com November 12 2002 12:00 AM ET

Melissa Etheridge
has made a career of being down-to-earth and
passionate. So it’s only fitting that her new
Live…and Alone DVD set, which details her
2001 solo tour, is an unpretentious and intimate look
into the singer as well as her life on the road.

The tour came hot
on the heels of her seventh studio album, Skin, which
documented her personal journey from bitterness and
despair to healing and renewal following her highly
publicized breakup with Julie Cypher, her partner of 12
years. Featuring Etheridge alone onstage with her
guitar, backed only by an understated light show and
intermittent video projection, the tour was the last leg
of that journey, and the DVD captures its last stop at the
Kodak Theatre in Etheridge’s hometown of Los
Angeles.

Released just in
time for the holiday rush, the DVD is available in two
versions. The single-disc standard edition contains a
90-minute excerpt of the live concert film plus a
previously unreleased recording of the Joan
Armatrading classic “The Weakness in Me.” The
two-disc deluxe edition serves up two hours of concert
footage on disc 1, while disc 2 offers a home
video–ish tour diary, an in-depth interview, several
bonus audio and video tracks, and—perhaps the
most sought-after goodie—rare (although brief)
video footage from a 1987 solo performance at the
Pasadena, Calif., lesbian bar Vermies.

Director Michael
Simon, best known for his VH1 specials on celebrity
lives, does an amazing job of keeping the DVD simple yet
entertaining, allowing Etheridge to do what she does
best—connect with her audience. The concert
film, in its straightforward, close-up presentation, is as
raw and powerful as Etheridge’s actual performance.
The tour diary, with behind-the-scenes snippets from
stops in the United States and Europe, offers fans a
rare peek inside Etheridge’s home, tour bus, hotel
room, and dressing room. It also introduces us to her
girlfriend, actor Tammy Lynn Michaels, as well as her
manager, her publicist, and various other members of
her tour crew. In the interview, shot on the stage of the
Kodak Theatre, Etheridge speaks with candor and in great
detail about what this period in her life has meant to
her. Her account of September 11, 2001, which she
spent in Dallas, is particularly moving.

Above all else,
Live… and Alone’s greatest
success (and clearly its intent) is to give the viewer a
real sense of not only Etheridge the
entertainer—the self-described “tool”
of the universe, a phenomenally effective communicator
of human emotion and experience—but also
Etheridge the person: girlfriend, mother, and citizen
of the world.