Country radio may have temporarily pushed aside artists like Jo Dee Messina to focus on flashy bros in their trucks, but after two sold-out shows on October 5th at the Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis, MD, it’s safe to say Messina’s fans have not and will not desert her.
Following a brief introduction, the award-winning singer joined her band on stage as they blazed their way through her first two singles, “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” and “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore.” For the next hour and a half, Messina thrilled her doting fans with a sensational mix of hit singles and songs from her latest album Me.
Before delving into new material, she had two No. 1 singles to perform, the title track off 1998’s I’m Alright and “That’s The Way” off 2000’s Burn.
Messina explained (albeit with some “difficulty” as she was battling a scratchy voice which was only detectable when she talked), the impetus for her new album. “I love to give people a voice,” and that’s exactly what she did. During the recording sessions she posted new songs to her website and asked fans for their feedback. All of this segued into one of the funniest moments of the night as she told the hilarious story about the joys and “joys” of motherhood and marriage which inspired her to write the album’s second single, the fiery “A Woman’s Rant.”
Two more chart toppers followed, as she sang the inspiring “Bring on the Rain,” off Burn which sounded wonderful (even without Tim McGraw) and “Stand Beside Me,” off of I’m Alright, which had the crowd in full-on sing-a-long mode.
After playing a rollicking version of “Lesson in Leavin,” also off I’m Alright, Messina took the time to tell stories and have fun at one fan’s expense. She asked a gentleman sitting in the front row (actually, it was at the table I usually sit at) what he wanted to hear and quickly followed with “what’s your favorite song.” Being put on the spot he was obviously flustered, so Messina playfully began to sing the chorus to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” which garnered plenty of laughs. She moved along and asked the crowd for requests. Someone shouted out “Peace Sign,” the fantastic first single off Me which didn’t do so well on the charts as Messina noted with a laugh and a tinge of bitterness toward the industry, “How do you know that song? Radio certainly didn’t play it.” Messina finally settled on another I’m Alright song “Silver Thunderbird.”
Before playing the “He’s Messed Up,” the next single off Me (released on October 27), Messina explained that she had hoped to co-write it with pop superstar Pink, but unfortunately their schedules did not mesh at the time. It’s a shame too, because it’s an unmistakably “Pink” kind of dysfunctional rocker which came alive on stage. Another Me track, “Breakin’ It Down,” followed with Messina’s voice soaring above the room.
She ended the set with yet another pair of No. 1 fan favorites: “My Give a Damn’s Busted” off Delicious Surprise and “Bye, Bye” off I’m Alright which once again had everyone in the house singing along.
Perhaps the night’s most amazing moment came in the “encore” (they didn’t really leave the stage). Earlier in the night Messina alluded to a new song that she wanted to play, but felt her ailing voice would let her down. Seeing that it was the end of the night, she threw caution to the wind, sat behind a keyboard, and played the intro to “Will You Love Me,” a remarkably jarring song about a friend who was apparently only there for the good times. Messina’s voice wailed at the bridge as she stomped across the stage, passionately questioning her friend’s allegiance. It was one of the most intense and chilling concert moments I’ve experienced in years and a transcendent way to end the night.
Fittingly, before leaving the stage to an admiring full house on their feet, the exhausted Messina took to the mic one last time, smiled in gratitude, and proclaimed, “I love what I feel, I love my job.” It’s that love that draws her fans even closer to her, despite current trends in country radio.