Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Concert reviews: Melissa Etheridge, Elvis Costello and "Big Freakin' Deal"

Seattle Times music critic


Melissa Etheridge, Paramount Theatre, Seattle, Sunday night

The gravel-voiced rocker played all her hits, including "Come to My Window," "I'm the Only One" and "Bring Me Some Water," as well as a white-hot cover of Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart."

It was an inspiring, meaningful night, an experience to lift the pride in everyone.

Patrick MacDonald

Classics and plenty more

Elvis Costello's coming to town is reason enough to celebrate. When he comes with friends — especially friends like New Orleans' own Allen Toussaint and the Crescent City Horns — well, then it's time to kick off your shoes and dance.


Elvis Costello & the Imposters, with Allen Toussaint and the Crescent City Horns, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Woodinville, Sunday night


"KISS 106.1 Big Freakin' Deal 2006": Pink, Nick Lachey, All-American Rejects, Rihanna, Ashley Parker Angel, Teddy Geiger, Aly and AJ, KeyArena, Seattle Center, Sunday night

In a perfect case of harmonic convergence, the Melissa Etheridge concert Sunday night at the Paramount coincided with the final day of Pride Week.

"It's a very gay city right now," the rock singer-guitarist told the adoring capacity crowd. Long a gay icon, her anthemic songs about freedom, justice and equality, and moving tributes to gay heroes Matthew Shepard, murdered in a gay bashing, and Mark Bingham of Flight 93, elicited strong response.

Adding to the show's emotional wallop was Etheridge's triumph over breast cancer, a subject of dialogue and song in the show, including inspiring interaction with cancer survivors in the front row. On her first tour since her diagnosis and treatment, she radiated energy, performing for three solid hours.

Etheridge's songs have always been mostly ringing anthems, the kind of searing, guitar-based rousers that are a foundation of rock performance. She's a master of emotion, in lyrics and in the stories she tells onstage. She and her first-rate three-man band had the crowd in their hands through every one of the 21 songs.

And that's just what 3,400 fans did Sunday night at Chateau Ste. Michelle, where Costello and Toussaint opened the Woodinville winery's 2006 summer concert series.

Costello, who seems out to master every musical genre, pop to country to jazz, this time is dabbling in New Orleans R&B. His distinctive voice — a pop-y tenor laced with cynicism — didn't always mesh perfectly with Toussaint's earnest, soulful songwriting, but the onstage camaraderie made for a tight performance.

The picnicking, wine-drinking crowd may have bought their concert tickets so they could sing along to Costello classics like "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," "Pump It Up," and "Alison" (all ably delivered), but they got plenty more: about a dozen songs from the pair's new CD, "The River in Reverse." The CD — a mix of Costello covering old songs penned by the New Orleans songwriter-pianist and new pieces they wrote together — provided many of the night's best-received tunes.

One of those, the funky, bluesy "On Your Way Down" (a Toussaint song from 1970) was jazzed up by the real stars of the night, the Crescent City Horns, who matched Toussaint note for note as he pounded the keys on the baby grand. The horns — who during the second of three encores gave a dreamy brass-quartet intro to "Alison" — were led by the remarkable Sam "Big Sam" Williams on trombone.

Toussaint and Costello (who announced Sunday that he and wife Diana Krall are expecting a baby, according to The Associated Press) are actually longtime collaborators. The match brings out the best in both. Like a lot of R&B, Toussaint songs can be overwrought; "Ascension Day" (sample lyric: "She hasn't been gone long enough for me to miss her") could be heard as no more than one man singing for his lost girl. But with Costello's edge, it was a song for all of us, and all we have lost.

Raina Wagner, assistant A&E editor

Pink is really all you need

Pink was dynamite.

She roared onto the KeyArena stage with a spunky performance that eclipsed the entire lineup at the "BFD" concert Sunday night — from Nick Lachey's sexy love songs to the All-American Rejects' nearly unintelligible screams.

Her look: a sleek, white-blond bob, a short flowy leopard-print dress and a pair of black high-heeled boots.

With that strong raspy voice, Pink opened her set with " 'Cuz I Can," from her new "I'm Not Dead" album. Dangling a riding crop from one hand, she marched across the stage, a black belt with a bow at her back skipping along with her flouncy dress.

Pink was a powerhouse in "Trouble," then sank onto her knees for "Just Like a Pill," the only song in which her singing didn't live up to her showmanship — she was a bit too busy with the stage antics, like knocking down the mic stand, to be completely focused on the song.

But she hit the mark again with "Stupid Girls," playing up her flirty act, while preaching to the female dominated audience. The tune's feminist lesson: Don't dumb yourself down just to get a guy.

"I know a lot of people don't wanna get political, but I'm not one of them," she said as a preamble to "Dear Mr. President," a scathing indictment of George W. Bush.

Pink then took a stool next to three other band members and the crowd was silent, listening to the quartet's emotional voices, with pleading lines like "What kind of father would take his own daughters' rights away?"

Ending the set with a bang, Pink broke into the running man to "Get the Party Started."

Although Pink was the star, the "BFD" crowd welcomed Nick Lachey with frenzied screams that started with his opening ballad, "Beautiful," and never stopped. For the most part, Lachey sang well, though he had trouble hitting the high notes.

But the ladies were riveted. Lachey only had to place a hand to his ear during "Resolution" for the screams to crescendo.

Judy Chia Hui Hsu, Seattle Times staff reporter

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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