January 30th, 2008 at 5:47 pm
Photos by Kevin Kinder, Northwest Arkansas Times
The first thing anyone notices at an Indigo Girls concert is how rabid the fanbase it. Amid catcalls, song requests and declarations of love, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray kept their audience howling, sometimes screaming for more.
The acoustic-only concert was mostly a sit-down environment, but that couldn’t prevent a select few from dancing like no one was watching at the Indigo Girls’ concert at the Walton Arts Center on Jan. 29. As a result — especially for a folk-rock concert at a reserved-seating-only venue — it was an awfully lively crowd.
It was the duo’s return to the stage after an illness forced the Indigo Girls to postpone their Jan. 27 performance in Alabama. And although Saliers complained she couldn’t hit a few notes, if the crowd noticed, they certainly didn’t seem to complain.
Ray and Saliers treated their audience to a set that spanned nearly two hours and covered a wide range of their music, interspersing past hits such as “Shame on You” and “Galileo” with newer tracks such as “Fill It Up Again.” The group often used opening act Brandi Carlile as a third Indigo Girl, as the singer-songwriter joined them for several tracks, including a cover of the Bob Dylan song “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” a moving version of “Last Tears” and “Cannonball,” a song Carlile wrote.
In an earlier interview with the Northwest Arkansas Times, Saliers said she and Ray were guitar players first and merely filled in with other stringed instruments. But such a statement doesn’t give enough credit to Saliers, who played guitar, banjo and mandolin, or Ray, who played guitar, mandolin and harmonica, as skilled multi-instrumentalists.
For the last tune before the encore, as one might expect, the Indigo Girls sang “Closer to Fine,” using the accompaniment of the Carlile, her backing band and the screams of their fans to buoy the crowd into a frenzy.
And for a couple hours, nearly 1,000 WAC patrons were a little closer to fine themselves.
It should also be noted that those who showed up just to hear the Indigo Girls — and there were quite a few, by my count — missed quite a opening segment by Carlile, pictured above. Her set was naturally short, but she received no fewer than three standing ovations during her eight-song performance. Following six originals, she launched into two covers: “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash and a rousing version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a song that gained popularity after Jeff Buckley recorded it. She may have used a full, albeit acoustic, band for several songs, but Carlile’s voice is the only instrument she’ll ever need to be successful.