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Jo Dee Messina gets personal

Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Lowell, Mass., April 14, 2005

Reviewed by Maxine McPherson

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Jo Dee Messina came home to Massachusetts for a special benefit performance in front of family, friends and fans. The performance to benefit St. Jude's Hospital was particularly very personal for Messina because she lost a nephew to cancer only 10 days prior to the concert.

Starting with a number of her rocking hit songs, including "Heads Carolina, Tails California," "Was That My Life" and "I'm Alright," Messina let the audience know she was back.

Her new album, "Delicious Surprise, " coming April 26, is the first in 5 years (there was a "Greatest Hits" album, but she referred to that as a remake of old songs).

She danced and showed off her ample vocal talents through a number of the new songs including the hit single "My Give A Damn is Broken" and "I'm a Survivor." There was an edge to the new songs that dealt with the nightmare of her recent addiction/recovery and the recent breakup of her nine-year relationship.

But this concert was special, according to Messina and personal. The crew wheeled out a piano, and the band disappeared as she told the story of her five-year-old nephew's fight with cancer. A slide show of family pictures began as she sang 'You Were Just Here" and "It Gets Better" from the new album. There were few dry eyes left in the audience.

For an encore, Messina returned to the stage and agreed to sing anything anyone wanted for an additional donation to St. Jude's. The concert continued for about an hour longer, as she tried out songs like "Amazing Grace" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to the delight of the fans and family.