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The Indigo Girls Take Us to Unexpected Places

The Indigo Girls Take Us to Unexpected Places

Last night, the Indigo Girls visited the Minnesota Zoo’s Weesner Family Amphitheatre as part of the Music in the Zoo series.   The weather could not have been sweeter; a balmy spring evening, even the mosquitoes cooperated. 

Outfitted with a three piece band (fiddle, bass, and drums), the Girls handled a plethora of stringed instruments including guitars (acoustic and electric), mandolins, and an electric banjo.  Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are fantastic musicians – their strong suit at this date in their careers. It made for a full sound, with the rhythm section bringing a great deal of depth to the table, while the fiddle player added welcome atmosphere.

It is the length of their illustrious, impactful career – Ray and Saliers met as grade-schoolers and have been on the musical scene since the late 80’s – that might well explain the few cracks in their armor.

Vocally, there are issues. 

Amy Ray’s strong baritone is as rock bottom steady as ever, though she has a tendency to push from the throat at times leading to a dulling of her sound.  Emily Saliers?  Not sure if it is due to touring, age, or overuse, but all the pretty has been worn away.  The break in her voice, which in the past served her well, has widened.  Her vibrato, at times, is uncontrolled, and her throat sounds a tad damaged.  

On numbers where Ray takes the lead, Saliers remains an effective partner, but her leads were too often scrambled messes of missed pitches and broken notes.  The fact is, their vibratos and tones no longer match, which made this concert a tad bittersweet.

Not that the predominantly female sold-out crowd noticed as they mouthed and sang along with every number, taking the lead (with The Girls’ enthusiastic permission) a number of times. 

Material-wise, they covered all the bases, saving their two biggest hits, ‘Galileo’ and ‘Closer to Fine’ for the end.  The music that preceded those ran the gamut between rootsy country-flavored folk and introspective, singer/songwriter pop.  

However, they all had one thing in common: compositionally, they all contain interesting detours, musically taking the listener by surprise. This is a hallmark, for better or worse, of the duo’s songwriting.  It all made for an interesting ride, painting a rich portrait of these two musical mavericks.

Highlights of the evening included Saliers’  ‘Able to Sing’, an unwieldy little slice of existential pondering, a lovely version of their standard, ‘The Power of Two’, and the electric, funky, activists anthem ‘Go’, which featured some incredible guitar work on the part of Saliers and a powerful vocal from Ray.

The evening ended on a strange note: a cover of The Charlie Daniel’s Band staple, ‘A Devil Went Down To Georgia’, which given the duo’s roots and the talent of their backing band (particularly their fiddle player) made sense, I guess.  
It was an odd choice, but in a way, it was a fitting ending for an evening filled with music that took the audience, as familiar as they were with the material, to unexpected places. 

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