Have you ever had an experience so utterly bizarre and disturbing that you just can't find words to adequately describe it?
That pretty much sums up the Etta James concert I attended with Ms. Sizzle this evening. Though, before I get to the bizarre and disturbing part, I should preface this entry by saying I GOT TO SEE THE LEGENDARY MISS ETTA JAMES IN CONCERT!!! To say I am a fan is a bit of an understatement. After having heard Etta sing her signature song "At Last" on the movie soundtrack for Pleasantville, I became mildly obsessed. I started tracking down what music of hers I could find, and even ended up with some stuff on vinyl. Of course, now-a-days you can get pretty much everything from the iTunes Music Store, but back then it was a little more challenging.
But oh so worth it.
Etta James has a voice that's as big as a house and fills your soul. Truly a legend.
Fast forward to a month ago when Sizzle announces on Twitter that Miss James is coming to Seattle. Having never seen her perform live, I ask Sizz if she wants some company, and she manages to snag us third-row seats for the event. It doesn't get much sweeter than that!
Now, before I get to why I'm having a difficult time writing about it, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Etta James can still blow the doors off a concert hall. At eighty-one years old, that's a pretty impressive feat. She may enter the stage on a scooter and have to sit down to perform, but you'd never know it to listen to her. After all these years, she's just as amazing as you could hope for.
This had to be the single most sexually-charged, balls-nasty, horrifyingly inappropriate concert I have ever been to.
And I've seen Madonna.
For the first song, which I believe was a stirring rendition of "Tell Mama," (but could be wrong because I am still traumatized), Etta... performed(?)... some kind of sex act on stage. It was hilarious, and the crowd was going nuts while she was making sexually-suggestive hand gestures, making kissie-face noises, flicking her tongue at the crowd, licking up the microphone, getting up and shaking her ass, fondling her breasts, and rubbing her crotch. Sizzle and I were dying, because it was as if Etta was making a joke about being 81 years old and still singing a song that was so sexually charged. It was all brilliant and very, very funny. And Etta sounded amazing.
Wiping the tears from our eyes, we applauded her "act" and waited for the second song to begin. I'm thinking it was the senses-shattering "I'd Rather Go Blind" (but, again, I'm still in a state of shock and could be wrong).
The inappropriate crotch rubbing, tongue flicking, and breast fondling continued in earnest.
On pretty much every song in her hour-long performance.
Things went from being a hysterical parody to just... wrong.
And then came the "fuck Beyonce" rant, where Etta just went off the rails about being able to kick Beyonce's ass... presumably because Beyonce sang her song, "At Last," at Obama's inauguration. This came as a total surprise, because I had read that Etta liked Beyonce's rendition, and said she was proud to have had her sing the song. And being that Beyonce credits Etta James as an influence, and worships the ground she walks on, it was all very... puzzling. I didn't quite understand what was going on.
I still don't.
What kills me is that Etta James is still amazing. Even at 81 and singing from a scooter, her voice will slay you. She doesn't need to do the whole scary sex-act car-wreck thing. It's just a distraction from an incredible performance, and is a disservice to both herself and the audience.
Do I regret going?
Hell no! I GOT TO SEE THE LEGENDARY MISS ETTA JAMES IN CONCERT!!!
But something tells me the image of her "performance" will haunt my nightmares for a while yet...