Review: Melissa Etheridge with Keb’ Mo’

On Tuesday, Sept. 23, we celebrated the summer’s last warm, dry night, enjoying Melissa Etheridge and special guest Keb’ Mo’ at Red Butte Garden’s Outdoor Concert Series grand season finale. What a way to end an incredible summer lineup of music. I expected Keb’ Mo’ to open with a half-dozen songs and give way to Etheridge. Instead, Keb’Mo’, a contemporary bluesman straight out of Compton, co-headlined the show and played 16 songs in all. What a bonus!

He opened with a funky groove on “Government Cheese.” He then delighted the sold-out Garden crowd with several tracks from his latest album Good To Be… including one of the best songs— to date—about life during the pandemic: “The Medicine Man.” That tune reminded us of the time when “everybody’s doin’ the best they can, we’re all just waitin’ on the medicine man.” He soothed our collective memory of those months when all we could do was wait and hope that scientists would help us find a way out of our isolation. The song sounded even better in front of a live audience as did “62 Chevy” and the title track “Good to Be (Home Again).” He also performed a cover of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me,” (also on the album) and turned it into a Garden sing-along. I predict another Grammy for Keb’ Mo’ for this solid contemporary blues record. 

Keb’ Mo’ and his full band hit some of his classics with “Perpetual Blues Machine,” “I Remember You” and the upbeat “Life is Beautiful.” Keeping the set joyful and light, he played the fun “Shave Yo’ Legs.” He ended the set with “Standin’ At The Station.” For his encore, he rocked an electrified resonator on “She Just Wants to Dance.” 

Ethridge opened with a fabulous rendition of her soulful “No Souvenirs.” Her raspy and powerful voice filled the amphitheater with sensuous and seductive rock ballads. She is a master of the genre. A mesmerizing silence descended on the Garden when she played “You Can Sleep While I Drive.” That song alone was worth the price of admission and we were just getting started.

Ethridge highlighted two albums from her multi-century catalog. She played familiar tunes and more obscure songs from her 1995 album, Your Little Secret. She seduced us with the steamy hit “I Want To Come Over” and then charmed the audience with the lesser-known cuts,  “Nowhere to Go” and “An Unusual Kiss.”  From her 21st-century repertoire, she played, “The Wanting of You,” “Company,” and “To Be Loved,” all from her 2010 album, Fearless Love. She also cranked it up with “As Cool As You Try,” a timeless new release from her 2021 album One Way Out.

She wrapped up the 16-song set with her hard-driving hits “Come To My Window” and “Bring Me Some Water.” She jammed out the set finale with “I’m The Only One.” At one point in the extended arrangement, I thought I heard the riff of “Rocky Mountain Way,” (or maybe it was just a Rocky Mountain high). For her encore, she ended with “Like The Way I Do.” 

What an excellent finish to a rich lineup of music at the Garden. Keb’ Mo’s uplifting blues (yeah that sounds contradictory, but he pulls it off) and Ethridge’s emotionally charged and smoky power ballads sent us toward winter singing a happy tune. Many thanks to the Red Butte Garden staff, volunteers and sound crew who gave us a festive and comfortable space to enjoy pitch-perfect music all summer long. See you next year.

  • Who: Melissa Etheridge with special guest Keb’ Mo’
  • What: One Way Out Tour
  • Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
  • When: September 20, 2022
  • Info: Redbuttegarden.org

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John Nelson
John Nelsonhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

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