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Melanie at the Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte, NC, August 2, 2003

This turned out to be an interesting and somewhat different Melanie concert. It had a more "serious" tone -- there was less joking, and some of the songs were deeply emotional. As Dean (his review is below) pointed out, "Extraordinary" was very emotional, and I could tell that everyone was affected by it. It was as if someone had said to Melanie, "If you want to be taken seriously, be serious."

Linda and I decided to make sure that we arrived early enough to eat in the area, and not be rushed before the show. We instantly recognized Peter's black Ford Expedition parked in front of the theatre and knew that Melanie and family were already in the area. We also found Dean in front of the theatre and talked with him a bit. He was wearing a home-made Melanie T-shirt, with pictures from several albums in a collage on it.

We ate at the Cajun restaurant next door to the theatre, and it was there that I noticed that I didn't have enough "pocket money", so I asked the waiter where the nearest ATM machine was. I figured I'd better have money in case Melanie was selling anything. He told me there was one in a place called "Fat City" a block away, so while I was off to get cash, Linda went to the theatre to get our "will call" tickets. When I got back, I found Linda in our car, moving it to a newly vacated parking spot just in front of the theatre door (no, it wasn't Melanie's spot).

We went into the theatre and saw Peter. He was sporting a new look -- his hair was a bit shorter and much darker than the last time we saw him. We talked with him a bit, and then found the seats they had reserved for us. Then I went back out into the lobby to check out the table where they were selling CD's, to see if anything new was there. I overheard the woman behind the table mention that she was from the Netherlands, so I asked, "Are you Wilma"? She said she was, and so I talked with her a bit. For those of you who don't know, Wilma is a sort-of publicist for Melanie when she's in Europe. Wilma was on vacation (on holiday?) here in the States, but she said she will be going back before the Largo show, and won't be there.

Before the show, a man came out on stage (he was from a local radio station, I think) and said Melanie would be a little late because of some trouble with sound checks, and filled the time by asking the audience how they learned about the show (newspaper, radio, or email). Then he introduced, "direct from Woodstock", Melanie!

Melanie was sporting a new look, too. Her hair was also much darker than when I had seen her before. It looked nearly black, with streaks of grey in it. Some if it hung in front of her face, and I couldn't help thinking, "Doesn't that hair in your face bug you?"

But none of that mattered when she started singing. Her voice was the best I had heard it in a long time. I don't know if she's been seeing a voice coach, a throat doctor, or what, but her voice was simply magnificent. She didn't have any trouble at all hitting high notes, low notes, or any notes. I was thinking, "Man, I sure hope her voice is that good on the new CD".

When she started singing, Linda speed-dialed Wendy on her cell phone and just let Wendy listen for a while. The signal wasn't real good in the theatre, and the call was dropped during "Baby Day", but Linda quickly dialed again, so I think Wendy got to hear most of it.

I didn't write down the songs, but I did manage to pick up part of the set list after the show. I wanted to get the entire list, but a woman near the stage asked if she could have some of the list, and I gave it to her. What I wound up with was two standard page-sized sheets of card stock scotch-taped together. Later Dean said Peter didn't like it when people took the set list, so I asked Peter when I saw him, and he said he liked to keep the set lists himself, and I let him have my part. But later he gave it back, saying "You've been a friend for a long time." And so it was the set list that I had Melanie autograph when we saw her. I also bought a CD (even though I already had a copy of it) and got along with it a free copy of the single release of "Till They All Get Home". I had Melanie autograph the single for Wendy.

Linda and I waited in the line to see Melanie, and just before we got to her, Linda called Wendy on her cell phone. After we got our things autographed, Linda just handed the phone to Melanie and said something like "Here, Melanie, talk to Wendy." (In a nice way, of course, but Linda is very direct.) And Melanie did take time to speak to Wendy, even though she must have been very tired after such an emotional show. Melanie is the most fan-friendly performing artist there is. Then Wendy got to talk to Beau on the phone as well.

Here is the portion of the set list I got. I know she did not do all these songs, especially "Lay Down", as Dean pointed out in his review.

Close To It All
Baby Day
Uncle Pat (Did she do this, Dean?)
Leftover Emotions
You Call Yourself a Writer
Rock and Roll Heart
And We Fall
Jamming Alone
Crazy Love
Make It Work For Me
Brand New Key
Try To Die Young
Prone To Wander
Freedom Knows My Name (new arrangement)
Look What They Done To My Song Ma
Lay Down (I know she didn't do this one)
(She also did a couple of encore numbers, not on the list.)

Hm... That almost seems like the whole show. I wonder what was on that other set list? Anyhow, I have scanned the set list, and it will be on my site soon. I also took pictures of Melanie, Peter, and Beau. I reckon I'll have to get them approved before I can show them to you.

After we finally left and were driving back to our hotel, I was thinking, "That was wonderful!", and a little sad that it was all over. But it turned out not to be completely over. The next morning, as Linda and I were enjoying the hotel's complementary breakfast, Beau appeared out of nowhere and sat down at our table! It seems that Melanie and family were in the same hotel we were! Melanie and Peter were still asleep, and since Linda and I had plans for that evening back home, we had to get going. But it was nice to visit with Beau again.

Dean Billings' review:

While I was a little surprised Beau didn't play an opening solo set, I was thrilled when they opened the show with a very soulful reading of "Close To It All". But that was just a prelude for things to come. Melanie was in amazing voice. She did several old songs ("Baby Day", for example) but the true gems on Saturday were the new songs. When she played "Extraordinary", she was breathtaking. The song will break your heart--it's about loving someone or something but not having those feelings returned. Melanie sang it with every bit of soul in her being-- I was right up front so I could see she cried when she sang it...but she's not the only one. The song had me--and a couple of my friends--crying openly as well. I would say almost everyone--if not every single person--would have bought Paled By Dimmer Light after the show had it been available. (Peter had someone take money for preorders after the show...with a probable release of September).

Another new song, "It Will Work Out Fine" (I think that's the title) was also exceptional. (It's about being in a relationship with someone who is NOT the love of your life, but being determined to make it work.) She also played "I Tried To Die Young" (written about her now former publicist who told her she was, essentially, too old.) Of course, she did a number of Crazy Love songs--and they were all quite stunning. "And We Fall" was even better than the recorded version--she sang it with a lot of soul. She brought out the 'band in a box' for "Jammin' Alone" and "Smile". When I read about the 'b.i.t.b' before, it didn't sound like a good idea to me, but for the most part it worked GREAT! (I didn't think it was necessary for "Freedom Knows My Name", however.) The song "Crazy Love" was beautiful with just Melanie and Beau--better than either of the recorded versions, IMHO.

The only disappointing part of the show for those of us who were close enough to see the set list is that while "Lay Down" was down as the final encore, she didn't play it. "Lay Down" means a lot to many in the audience, and many of us were deeply disappointed. She did play "Beautiful People" and "The Nickel Song" instead (they weren't on the list), but I think most would have preferred "Lay Down". (With the 'b.i.t.b', it probably would have been great, too!)

Nonetheless, Melanie was amazing, and the power, beauty, and soul in her voice was often jaw dropping. Plus, she looks great! Furthermore, she and Beau are getting better and better as a musical team. The two of them play together so intuitively that one imagines Melanie could never find a better collaborator.

Needless to say, Beau is as beautiful inside and out as ever. He is a kind, warm and genuine guy! He is a true gem!

The pictures from this concert are here.

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