Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls at Tarrytown Music Hall

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We saw the Indigo Girls for the first time this summer, in VA, covered in this post. When I saw that they were coming to Tarrytown Music Hall (which we found out last night was their first time there ever), I was so excited that I used it as the excuse to finally become a member of The Hall so that I could purchase tickets early. That worked out, as we got second row seats, center orchestra!

Much of what I said in that post could be repeated verbatim here, since I was just as impressed last night, and we’re still not experts in their music. That made us anomalies (again), as the overwhelming majority of the audience were serious Indigo Girls fans (nearly all were wonderfully respectful, even though they were loudly adoring as well).

Both Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are brilliant songwriters. Both have very strong voices. While Emily’s vocal range is probably a little wider, I was impressed the few times that Amy took the high notes in songs where Emily was singing lead.

Amy Ray

Amy Ray

Emily Saliers

Emily Saliers

Both are solid on all of the stringed instruments that they play. Emily really shines on the guitar and banjo, playing extremely sophisticated leads and picks. I would happily attend a show where Emily did nothing but play solo guitar! Of course, I would miss out on her voice, songwriting and harmonizing with Amy, but she would still be fantastic!

Once again, Julie Wolf joined them for the majority of their numbers. She played electric keyboards, accordion and grand piano, all wonderfully. She also harmonized with them on a number of songs (and with their guests as well), and she has a lovely voice, that blends perfectly with the Girls.

JulieWolf JulieWolf 2

They played an eclectic mix of songs last night. Huge crowd favorites (where they have to let the audience sing along, including typically having the audience sing an entire verse by themselves!), a nice selection from their new CD (Poseidon and the Bitter Bug), and some more obscure older numbers (Amy’s word!), that weren’t obscure at all from the crowd’s perspective, as they were shouting out for them!

What is impressive (to me) about them is the incredible energy and power they deliver, even in large venues, even though they are just using two stringed acoustic instruments. Julie adds a beautiful depth with the keyboards, but Amy and Emily achieve the same energy even when it’s just the two of them on stage.

About 2/3’s of the way through their set they introduced a special guest star. They turned over the stage to her for one song all by herself. That guest was Jill Hennessy, one of our favorite actresses who is now launching a musical career with her debut album, Ghost In My Head. We loved her in Law and Order, and even more so in Crossing Jordan, which we were addicted to.

She sang 10,000 Miles from her new CD. She has a fantastic voice, and accompanied herself very well on an acoustic guitar. Later in the show, she joined them for a few more numbers (sans guitar) to sing harmony, to close out the show. She was terrific and it was a real treat for both of us to get to see her perform!

Jill Hennessy 1 Jill Hennessy 2 Jill Hennessy 3

The Girls had another guest on stage for at least four numbers, Michelle Malone, who was also the opening act before the Girls came on. She complemented the harmonies very well, and played solid guitar with them (more on her guitar playing when I cover her as the opening act).

In both shows that we’ve attended, we found the Indigo Girls to be incredibly generous of spirit, to the opening act, to their guests, to each other, to Julie Wolf, and to the crowd. They are simply delightful human beings who radiate warmth and love. That they can write, sing and play instruments so well is just icing on the cake. 🙂

They closed the show with Closer to Fine (one of my all-time favorite songs, not just their songs!). Both Jill and Michelle came out to sing it with them. The second they started playing, people rushed the stage, and nearly everyone stood up (including us old fogies). It was magic (as it always is, I’m sure). Then they left the stage.

No one sat, and no one stopped clapping and cheering. Amy came out alone, with a mandolin, and played a gorgeous song that had all of the energy of all of them on stage at once, even though she was doing it all herself. She popped a mandolin string 2/3’s of the way through the song, and never missed a beat (at least there were seven strings still on there).

Amy Ray Solo Encore

Amy Ray Solo Encore

Sully, possibly the hardest-working roadie in the business (I mentioned her in my previous post as well), noticed instantly and had a replacement mandolin waiting in the wings, in case Amy gave her the slightest nod. Amy just played on with the broken one.

Sully

Sully

Then Emily, Julie and Michelle joined Amy and performed an amazing rendition of Wild Horses (an old Rolling Stones hit for you who are too young). Then Jill joined them as well for the final number, which tore down the house (as it always does), Galileo.

Including the three song encore, and Jill’s solo number, their set lasted just under two hours. Incredible, considering that they had an opening act as well. Bravo all around, on every level!

The Michelle Malone band opened the show. Michelle is an extremely good guitarist. In addition to incredible technique (she plays lead, slide, finger picking and rhythm!), she has a really interesting style. She has a very powerful voice, with a pretty wide range. That’s all the good stuff.

Michelle Malone

Michelle Malone

For me, they played too loud, in particular in support of a group like Indigo Girls. Michelle Malone is hard rock, through and through, and the sound system was cranked up (to a nearly uncomfortable level for my personal taste). She also emotes quite a bit in her vocals (also not atypical for loud rock), and I had trouble discerning sentences (though a word or two, here and there, would make its way to my ears).

That meant that her voice was purely another instrument, as I couldn’t really make out what the lyrics were. As I said before, she has a good voice, so that could have been OK, except for the elevated volume, and the fact that she spends a lot of time in the upper registers (which she can hit well), which was just less-than-pleasant for me.

Still, she’s multi-talented, and most the of crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy her set, and I’m sure that if she’s headlining, so people are showing up for a rock show, not an Indigo Girls show, then she could really appeal in a very big way!

To repeat, when she was on with the Indigo Girls (without her band), she was exceptional at fitting in perfectly with their sound, volume and vibe. At no point did Michelle detract from the Indigo Girls performance, and when she sang five part harmony with the Girls, Julie and Jill, it was fantastic!

Jason Rogers played bass and sang a bit of harmony. He was fine on the bass throughout the set, until he took a solo, where he lost my interest for the most part, with one small part that struck me as well done. He sang very little, but it could have been not at all, since you could barely hear his voice over the rest of the instruments and Michelle’s very powerful voice.

Jason Rogers

Jason Rogers

Katie Herron played the drums, and nearly pretended to sing on a few lines, before pushing the microphone away from her. Sorry, no good individual links for her, even though she’s played in a number of bands who have gotten reasonable press. For the most part, she was a solid, straight-up drummer, doing nothing particularly interesting.

Katie Herron

Katie Herron

During the last two numbers, Michelle cranked it up a lot, and Katie finally let loose a bit, giving me a glimpse of what she’s got. She followed that up with a nice solo effort in the last song. After drumming a bit, she handed the sticks to Jason, and used her hands on the drums like they were bongos. It was cool, and she was very good doing it.

Michelle Malone was on for nearly 50 minutes, so when you add the length of the Indigo Girls set to that, this was a long, healthy show, with a 20 minute intermission between the sets.

We had a great time, and look forward to catching the Girls again, soon!

Indigo Girls at Lewis Ginter

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When I first heard the Indigo Girls sing Closer to Fine, in 1989, I ran out and bought the CD right away. I didn’t regret it, as there are many other great songs on the CD as well.

If you read my earlier post today about Eddie From Ohio, then you know that back then (OK, not quite back in 1989) I was extremely selective about what made it on to my MP3 player. Three songs from the CD Indigo Girls (by the Indigo Girls) made it on to the MP3: Closer to Fine, Secure Yourself and Prince of Darkness. I still listen to all three regularly.

Unfortunately, we’ve never gotten to see them live. In a major irony, our favorite group for the past two years is Girlyman. It turns out, unbeknownst to us at the time we discovered Girlyman, they used to regularly open for the Indigo Girls. Cool! We rectified that oversight last night at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in an outdoor concert.

Even though we both love the few songs of theirs that we know well, we really didn’t know what to expect from this type of show, both musically and audience-wise. Given our disappointment in seeing both the Proclaimers and Blues Traveler, both on the basis of just a few loved songs as well, there was at least a touch of nervousness.

Not to worry fans, the Indigo Girls were/are awesome, and their show is also different than expected given the type of shows we typically attend.

On the very off chance that you don’t know anything about the Indigo Girls, they are two amazing singer songwriters. Standing left-to-right on the stage:

Amy Ray sings and plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica. Amy writes amazing songs, sings beautifully, plays all of her instruments with energy (mostly a very driving rhythm style, not much lead) and harmonizes angelically with Emily.

Amy Guitar Harmonica

Amy Guitar Harmonica

Amy Mandolin

Amy Mandolin

Emily Saliers sings and plays guitar and banjo. Emily writes amazing songs, sings beautifully (with a broader range than Amy, as Emily hits some incredibly high notes, with wonderful clarity). Emily plays the guitar in many styles, from driving rhythm to fantastic finger picking, to high-quality leads, to a slide on one number as well.

Emily Guitar

Emily Guitar

Emily Banjo

Emily Banjo

Each of them could easily be a solo superstar, both in terms of their songwriting and their vocal and instrumental ability. But, like with Girlyman, the magic happens when they come together. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts (in both groups), and they are starting with pretty darn high quality parts/ingredients to begin with!

Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls

In addition to their typical brilliant blending of voices in harmony, last night they added a third person on the stage for the majority of the numbers.

Julie Wolf played electric keyboards, accordion and sang. Julie is excellent on the keyboards. She sang on roughly 1/2 of the numbers for at least a few phrases in support of Amy and Emily, and she was wonderful. The three voices worked perfectly together.

Julie Wolf Keyboards

Julie Wolf Keyboards

Julie Wolf Accordion

Julie Wolf Accordion

The Indigo Girls put out a new CD a few months ago called Poseidon and the Bitter Bug. They played roughly 1/2 of the CD last night. I really liked it a lot.

Their fans knew even their newest stuff cold. Quite a number of people sitting near us (we were in the third row) were singing out loud during every song. But, when the Girls started playing their more classic hits (not that we knew those either), significantly more people starting singing along out loud (without a request from the stage to do so).

In the bigger hits, during at least one verse (and of course during the chorus), Emily would invite the crowd to sing the verse instead of them, and the crowd obliged by belting it out at the top of their lungs.

When requested from the stage, it’s a very cool experience to hear the audience get to experience a sing-a-long with their heroes. When they are singing along with Amy and Emily at other times, it could have been distracting at best, and wildly annoying at worst. Amazingly, it was neither, as I was quite impressed with the quality of the voices of those who sat around us, and it all just worked!

They closed the set with Closer to Fine, which was beyond awesome, with the entire crowd screaming along for most of the song. They brought on the opening act (not the full band, just the star) to sing that song with them. It was wonderful (I’ll cover him shortly).

For the encore, which most of the crowd stood for, they did two numbers, closing the show with Galileo, which the crowd had been screaming for all night long. The opening act came out to join them for part of the encore as well!

So, I said above that the show was different, unexpected. Here are the two main things:

  • Very little banter. In fact, very little talking at all, though what little there was, was very warm. In fact, while Emily named Amy, and formally introduced Julie Wolf, no one returned the favor. Emily’s name wasn’t mentioned even once the entire evening!
  • They never used the same instrument on consecutive numbers! Their roadie, Sully, brought two replacement instruments up on the stage to hand to Amy and Emily after each number. That’s beyond incredible (and performed smoothly every time) because it meant that the Indigo Girls didn’t spend one second tuning between songs, as Sully clearly tuned off stage before handing the instruments to the Girls.

I’ve never been to a show where the performers don’t end up killing some serious time tuning. In the case of Girlyman, it’s an opportunity for some of the best banter you can imagine, so they turn it into a positive. For the Indigo Girls, you simply get that much more amazing music crammed into the evening, because they sang and played their hearts out for 100 minutes. Bravo!

On to the opening act, Matt Nathanson. We’ve only recently discovered Matt. One of our favorite groups is Sugarland. Sugarland is in heavy rotation on our iPod in the car. Lois can’t get enough of quite a number of their songs. On their Love on the Inside CD, the last song is called Come On Get Higher. As I’ve said many times, Lois cares who wrote the song, and in this case, it’s Matt Nathanson.

Sugarland’s cover of Come On Get Higher is fantastic, and we love listening to it over and over. But, it also made us go out and buy one of Matt’s CDs (before we had a clue we would get to see him live), called Some Mad Hope.

The fact that he was opening for the Indigo Girls last night was a super bonus for us, because we would have happily gone to see him headline somewhere. We would not have been disappointed.

Matt Nathanson

Matt Nathanson

He was awesome. He sings incredibly well, and plays the guitar well with a terrific energy. He writes great songs, often irreverent and tongue-in-cheek.

He’s incredibly funny, bantering aggressively (but cleverly as well) with the crowd throughout the show. Many people in the crowd knew all of his songs, and the two women in front of us actually came to see him, not the Indigo Girls, though they ended up hanging around and thoroughly enjoying the Girls as well.

Matt was supported by three other people on stage. Left-to-right:

Aaron Tap played guitar, electric keyboards and sang harmony with Matt. He’s an excellent guitarist, and sings wonderfully well with Matt (his voice is quite high, surprisingly so). He’s the only one who sang with Matt.

Aaron Tap

Aaron Tap

John Thomasson played the upright bass. Given the up-tempo sound, and power of the band, it was a little surprising to see an upright bass rather than an electric one, but John played it magnificently either way. Great bass lines all night long.

John Thomasson

John Thomasson

Konrad Meissner played the drums extremely well throughout the set.

Konrad Meissner

Konrad Meissner

They were on stage for roughly 45 minutes, and we would have been delighted to listen to them for hours longer. As I noted above, Matt (not the rest of the band) joined the Indigo Girls for Closer to Fine, and for part of the encore as well. That was a ton of fun too.

Matt Nathanson and Amy Ray

Matt Nathanson and Amy Ray

It was a magical evening, that we hope to relive as soon as we can. Unfortunately, it will be repeated in our home town in Central Park this coming Tuesday, but we’ll still be in Virginia, so we’ll miss it!

First a blessing, and then a few complaints, to round out our story.

Rain was called for throughout the evening, and it looked extremely threatening as we got on line. Amazingly, after perhaps three drops, it stopped, and the rain held off until we were driving back to Fredericksburg. Thank you!

As gorgeous as Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is, and as wonderful as the show was, they could stand to improve some things, especially as compared to Innsbrook After Hours from the night before.

Update: I was contacted by both Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and Haymaker Productions (who put on the show). Both were examples of superb customer service, and both made me feel that they are professionals who care about making each event as good as possible! Good answers to my specific points, not just “sorry, but please come again…”. Thanks to both organizations for taking the time!

Original complaints below, unedited, but I felt that the caveat above was important to insert before you get to the complaints!

First, they said that the gates would open at 5:30pm. They didn’t open until 5:50pm. Standing in the hot sun, for an indeterminate amount of time (yes, the sun came out after the few drops of rain stopped), is simply unpleasant.

Waiting on Line

Waiting on Line

To compound that anxiety, the web site said that Matt Nathanson would be on stage at 6pm. We all wanted to eat first, so by 5:50, it was looking and feeling dicey. In the end, the show didn’t start until 6:30pm, so we had plenty of time to eat, but even that was unexpected, since the show was called for 6pm.

Now the food. It was quite tasty, so after the fact, no complaints. But, dramatically less choice than the night before, and nothing that could easily be eaten in one hand (like a sandwich, burger, etc.). So, they should have a broader offering next time. Also, a salad for $6 felt like a rip-off, but otherwise, while a tad on the expensive side, it ended up doing the job nicely.

Only two more complaints! We had Gold Circle Seating (near the stage), which we paid a premium for. Lois called in advance, and we were told that even with this premium seating area, we needed to bring our own chairs. Fine, no problem. So, we dragged three heavy folding chairs and one bulky plastic one.

Of course, the information was wrong. The Gold Circle Seating supplied the seats. We looked like idiots holding our chairs. We ended up placing them on the side, and they got used by four strangers (at least someone benefitted from our schlepping!). Thankfully, they were all intact at the end of the show, and we got to schlep them back to the car, nice!

Last complaint. The ground was sopping wet (fine, no one can control that). But, after the show, over a thousand people were tramping through the soggy grass with practically no light whatsoever. It was a disaster in the making. At least no one near us fell over, potentially causing a major problem, and I’m hopeful that it didn’t happen to others that we were unaware of either.

After the show, we headed back to our friends’ house to pick up our car, and then hit the road back to the hotel in Fredericksburg. A fantastic two days in Richmond, with the better show capping it off last night!