Lensic Performing Arts Center
Santa Fe, NM
Words/ Photos: Jake Cudek
It’s Alright, Devotion, Elizabeth, Fishtails, Fill It Up Again, Yield, Deconstruction, Making Promises, Let It Be Me, Go, Watershed, Moment of Forgiveness, Come A Long Way, Rise of the Black Messiah, Train Inside, Get Out The Map, Shame On You, Cortez the Killer, Galileo
Encore: Closer To Fine
One of the most politically and socially extroverted groups of the last three decades, The Indigo Girls graced the stage of the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico in front of a sold out, excited crowd. This endeavor was an effort to raise support for the Santa Fe Human Society and further reflected the conscious outlook of the duo. Armed with two microphones, sixteen stringed instruments, and powerful voices, the contingent of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers delivered twenty-one songs over a ninety-minute set that entertained, inspired, and informed the crowd. The band’s passion has fueled their ride, not as rock stars, but as fellow humans with a common message.
Taking the stage, the ladies entered the room, acoustics in hand, and were welcomed by deafening applause, accompanied by many calling out “thank you” and words of adoration. Wide smiled, the band launched into the driving upbeat tempo of “It’s Alright,” with Ray and Saliers exchanging leads on vocals and obviously feeling good about the space, as they continued to beam at each other and out into the darkened hall.
“Devotion,” a soft and intricate tune with its droning affect and blended harmonies, played upon those chords that often move people to tears. Looking around the room, many were looking into the windows of their partners in that apparent state.
“Elizabeth,” off of their latest release, 2015’s One Lost Day, found Saliers taking lead vocals, giving the audience the first taste of the fact that her voice had not diminished with time and is as rich as it had ever been. Pulling from the same release, Ray commanded the darker tune “Fishtails,” and saw the two songstresses switch to electric instruments, providing the first glimpse at Saliers’ prowess on electric banjo. Both these tunes also revealed that there was no rusty nails in the creative box that has housed their wordsmithing capabilities, providing anecdotes of connective insight.
Returning to acoustic instrumentation, “Fill It Up Again,” was quickly recognized by the crowd and gave way to the first full sing along exchange of the evening. Fueled by more crowd interaction, familial shout outs abounded to the stage and were warmly welcomed by Ray and Saliers, as they returned with genuine thanks and warm expressions.
“Yield” was laid down by the rhythmic mandolin stylings of Ray as Saliers took the opportunity for intricate finger picking, showing her abilities at both tempo and lead.
Turning to the slow number, “Deconstruction,” it was apparent that the audience was truly there to listen and appreciate, as no one uttered an out of turn word, and the ladies performed this emotional piece against the silence of the theater.
“Go,” aka “The Sufferagate Song,” was inspired by the American writer of the proletarian movement of the 1930s, Meridel Le Sueur, and had a very different feel than the other song choices of the night. Bordering on acoustic punk, in both verve and composition, this one was belted out with fierceness.
One of their earlier tunes, “Watershed,” gave way to another sing along with the audience and reminded many of the early material that had wrapped them in the warm tapestry woven by these creative individuals.
“Rise of the Black Messiah,” saw an invitation to the group’s guitar tech, Justin Bricco, to accompany them on acoustic guitar, during which Saliers slung on her red electric and Ray threw down on vocals and mando rifts. This driving tune showed again the duo’s ability to modulate between lilting folk and hard driving rock. Saliers’ soloing was of particular note as she bent notes and nailed her mark, eyes shut, lost in her delivery.
Following the locomotion of “Black Messiah,” Saliers took the attentive passengers for a ride on the “Train Inside,” a tune off of her first-ever, upcoming solo album. Performing in solitude, she progressed in an unhurried fashion through her own story telling of love while coordinating her incredible ability for emotional singing and timed digitation. Warm exuberance was doled out, as a smiling Saliers received it with emotional appreciation, thanking the crowd for the reassurance towards her first impending independent outing.
Firing the engine back up to close out the evening on a high note, the two pulled from the older catalog with a one-two punch of “Get Out The Map,” and “Shame On You,” bringing more resounding cheers from the audience and continuing the spirited sing-alongs that had dotted the evening.
The only cover of the show came in the form of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer,” and was appreciated by all, not only in message and performance, but also in recognition that, like this evening’s heralds, the author had also recently taken up his instrument in standing with the native peoples in protest of the pipeline in the North.
Closing the set, “Galileo,” reared his familiar head, and brought smiles to all in attendance. As was to be expected, this was one of the biggest sing along and multitudes could be seen hugging and exchanging the verses to one another.
The troubadours left the stage to a standing ovation that continued past their return, as they stood there humbly basking in the appreciation to a deafening cacophony of bliss, a creation of their own inspiration. As the crowd settled, they gave thanks, wished all hope for the future, and recommended another moment of unity in song, starting up “Closer To Fine.” The recognition of the opening chords drove many, whom had respectively remained settled for this theater show, from their seats to dance and sing face to face with the vessels that had been part of their personal dialogues of perseverance and self belief.
With the recent turn in political events, one would think the show would be riddled with zealous rallying over the President-Elect, but refreshingly, there were only two references, and neither were filled with rhetoric indulgence. Instead, the message from these powerful women seemed not to be contained in the ethos of this modern time alone, but more so an applicable testament for any generation to come. Equality, compassion, and understanding continue to resound in their speech as well as their song, and the crowd was thoroughly pulled in by their candor and authenticity.
Although one would expect continuity in the duo after thirty years of performances, this group still delivers far past that expectation. With freshness and obvious enjoyment, both in each other’s company and in their place on stage, there is a tangible “x-factor” that has the ability to move anyone within earshot. The application of the musicality, harmonies, and script has the power to take simple songs and immerse the listener in such an experience that it almost seems as though time is suspended, leaving only surprise that the moment passed has been of such short duration. The fact that they also believe in what they stand for adds an infinite depth to the wellspring that has, for so many, fed personal pursuits of equality, justice, and the optimism for new days as individuals and as community. Participating in the Indigo Girl’s experience is a shared one at its root and this was signified by the continual, open dialogue that ensued over the evening from both sides of the stage.