Sunday, 14th March 1999

Hard Rock Live show review

I came home from a weekend of camping on Sunday night and got onto the computer to check concert listings, only to find out that Melanie was playing at the new Hard Rock Live here in Orlando, and that it had started already. I called the venue and they said she'd be onstage in 15 minutes. I broke a few laws to get there The Hard Rock Live is a great venue, one of those large-but-small Vegas-room size places with tables on the main floor. Diamond-Vision screens on either side of the stage show close-ups to those in the back (great camera work!).

I'm sure I missed at least the opening number. When I got there Melanie was onstage with full band: her daughters on vocals, Beau on guitar, a pianist, bassist, drummer, percussionist, and even a couple horns. The only other time I had seen her live was with a very small set-up so just seeing this many folks onstage excited me. I expected a full sound and some surprises. I was not disappointed.

Melanie was her usual gorgeous self, dressed in flowing black, friendly and warm as always. When I arrived she was introducing "a song that an amazing number of folks thought I wrote!". The band then launched into a beautifully full version of "Ruby Tuesday". Melanie surely was revelling in the acoustics and the large band. She was in wonderful vocal form, storytelling the verses and soaring on the choruses.

Then came a real treat. After a brief introduction, "The Nickel Song" began, jauntier than ever. With the horns filling out the sound, the song turned into a real New Orleans-style rave-up. The small but fervent crowd was swaying and clapping and smiling, and Melanie was clearly loving it. It was so cool to see the table of dreadlocked Gen-Xers beside me enthralled and really getting into the music. They were clearly impressed by the music in general and by the power of Melanie's voice in particular.

Although I'm not sure of the actual order for sure (you forget these things when you're in awe), I know the following songs were done , and done beautifully....

"Old Bitch Warrior"- Melanie warned that "small children should be taken from the room"..:) With just herself, a percussionist and Beau on a wonderfully eloquent flamenco-style lead guitar, the song managed menacing and warm at the same time. This was followed by the new song "Jammin' Alone" which I'd heard about from the birthday concerts, about learning to be happy with yourself as well as with others. Melanie still has it in her song-writing-wise. The girls joined in on vocals, and the song made me think of gypsies singing by a campfire, full of spirit and purpose. Beau again soared on guitar, with expressive bends and flourishes.

"Look What They've Done To My Song Ma" was also jumpin'. Melanie invited the audience to join in on the French verse, which I kind of managed (when that didn't work, she tried German!). She said in the middle of the song was where she wanted to have an onstage breakdown some day , just like Loretta Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter". That got a big laugh.

And then, pure pleasure, twice Melanie, at prodding by the pianist ("Is there a story behind this next one?") told about Woodstock and the feeling she got there. She said how in tune with the world she felt, and with nature, and with peace. Then the band began "Lay Down"!!!! RAPTURE -- Rapture with a twist. Melanie seemed a little unsure for the first few bars, then stopped the band altogether to the puzzlement of the audience. She then mock-shyly announced, "I was so in tune with the planet, but I forgot to get in tune with the band..." More laughter. Then the song started again in earnest. After a very impassioned final chorus, Melanie took her bow to an enraptured audience, some now like myself holding their table candles high!!!

Then the encore, which TOTALLY blew my mind. It hit me so hard that I have no recollection of what she said before it started. When she and the girls hit the first notes to "Ring The Living Bell" I was transported to that perfect place where music goes right to the heart and spills over. Melanie said that she and most of the band (some were the Hard Rock "house band" I imagine" had only done a 20-minute rehearsal. You'd never have proved it by me. The bassist in particular was very melodic on this one and singing harmony as well, clearly as thrilled to be playing this song as we were to be hearing it Melanie then left the stage for good, only to return shortly thereafter to bow again. She then started signing autographs from the stage, quickly moving to a table at the main floor. Pictures with fans, more autographs, stories swapped and much love ensued. I was so glad I found out about the show just in time. Fate is a wonderful thing, and so is Melanie.

The bottom line is this was a magical night at a great venue with wonderful music. I expected nothing less from such a passionate and positive performer. This was my first chance to see Beau, and he definitely has a long future in music ahead of him as well. It was beyond my dreams. I'm riding a bike in the Florida Red Ribbon Ride from Orlando to Hollywood on March 26-28. One of my inspirations for the Ride is the song "I Will Get Over". I told Melanie and Peter this and they loved it. It was so nice to let her know how much her music meant to me, not on just that night but always.

Peace, Steve in Orlando

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