The Indigo Girls wax poetic.
Story and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisWhen it comes to female pop/rock duos, the Indigo Girls are not only one of the most proficient, but one of the most respected. The sound and performance style of partners in crime Amy Ray and Emily Sailers has progressively matured over the last fifteen years, throughout which the group has consistently stayed fresh to their extremely loyal audience. Part of that dedication stems from the Indigo Girls' ability to provide fans with an entirely new live experience
practically every time one sees them. They regularly dabble between playing major stadiums and amphitheaters with full backing bands and beefed up arrangements, while they're just as likely to hit the road with only a pair of acoustic guitars in hand and each other as the sole performers.
After a much more fleshed out, rough necked, and jam-packed summertime extravaganza at last year's Taste of Chicago (including a special guest appearance by Lisa Loeb) the girls returned to town with the second style of show in mind. The relatively intimate confines of the Chicago Theatre allowed their tour to adapt a bare bones environment with no frills to hide behind and no band of hired hands to cover up any mistakes made along the way. Perhaps that vulnerability and room for spontaneity were the reasons for such a pleasant evening, though it very well could have been the group's acute knack for writing such heartfelt and emotive songs, along with sharing the stories behind them on many occasions.
Touring behind their latest release Become You, the Indigo Girls kicked off with the disc's title track, peeling back the layers of the studio version's whistling gallop and exposing its true grassroots guts and liberating message. Both Ray and Sailers had no trouble filling the room with the song's waltzy acoustics, while their corresponding harmonies were right on target and continued to be throughout the evening. A mix between the old and new followed, from past hits like the metaphorical road trip though life "Get Out the Map," to the topic of relational unity on "Power of Two," to their latest homage to perseverance "Hope Alone." Though all were presented with equal eloquence, the spine chilling string section was void on "Hope Alone," creating a less touching effect than found on record.
It was really the only noticeable void throughout their entire two-hour set, as in many other cases, the Girls' passion and pensiveness overshadowed the insecurity of missing instruments. Evidence of those qualities was ample during the small town narrative "Starkville," the melodic meditation "Deconstruction," and the sugary scolding of "I'm Collecting You," along with mega hits "Shame on You," "Gone Again," "Closer to Fine," and "Galileo." Regardless of the somewhat hushed and contemplative environment, that last handful took on a particularly aggressive edge, prompting fans to their feet, accompanied by the singing or screaming the words much louder than even the duo at times.
Despite giving opening act Neko Case a bit of a hard time throughout her first few songs (rudely talking over her glorious vocals and classy alterative country compositions) the crowd took particular notice of the songstress when the Indigo Girls briefly sat in towards the end of her set. As gracious as it was for Ray and Sailers to publicly support their opening act, Case had no trouble standing on her own when it came to performance professionalism and beautiful balladry. The Virginia bred/Chicago transplant rotated between material from her intuitively haunting new record Blacklisted with a handful of tunes from her pair of predecessors (The Virginian and Furnace Room Lullaby). If there was anything the crowd should have taken away from Case's performance, it was her ability to blend a patient, wide ranged vocal strength with a prolific, storybook based songwriting methodology. Those key ingredients, backed by her "melt in your heart" persona, should only be her springboard for a year of even bigger and better opportunities.
Neko Case lets loose on the high note.
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