The Indigo Girls‘ progressive politics are an indelible part of their brand. The openly gay folk duo are known for their activism, from abolishing the death penalty to same sex marriage advocacy.
So when they hit the stage Sunday night at the Denver Botanic Gardens one could expect some sloganeering, a banner or even an ideological T-shirt would be waved if not worn.
Nothing of the sort transpired beyond the group’s signature harmonies and whole lot of “thanks, y’all” after each song. Those looking for politics, however, could still hear plenty in the lyrics sung on an overcast Mile High City night.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers tour constantly, and their live act is a model of musical precision that may leave little room for stump-style speeches. The performance included two false starts and a missed verse but still felt buffed to a shiny finish. Those minor miscues couldn’t distract from the artistry in play.
Fans might bemoan the lack of dynamism in the show, one which got bogged down by poor song selection before a terrific three-song encore. That trio included the obvious picks (Closer to Fine, Galileo) as well as a bristling cover of the Charlie Daniels Band’s Devil Went Down to Georgia. That group’s lead singer is as conservative as the Indigo Girls are liberal, but the crowd seemed to dismiss the ideological white flag being waved.
The night began with Fill It Up Again, one of duo’s most accessible songs, and a metaphor for the singers’ enduring appeal. Sprightly and serious, Again brims with overlapping harmonies that almost distract from the empowering story being spun.
Other tracks, like Shame on You, put the focus on their pro-amnesty arguments betwixt foot-stomping choruses.
The group is nothing if not efficient. The concert featured a bass player, drummer and a sensational violist to back them up. Ray and Saliers switched instruments repeatedly, making it sound like the duo had a fuller band at its disposal. Violin virtuoso Lyris Hung clearly persuaded her bosses to add more strings to existing songs, a wise move that gave the night a twangy touch.
The Girls delivered plenty of older songs from their overstuffed catalog, like Three Hits, and they wisely avoided the least popular phrase in the concert playbook,”now here’s a track from our upcoming album.”
Opener Von Grey pushed past the lower expectations that come from that slot to deliver a genre-bending set that will serve the quartet well down the road.
The Indigo Girls current tour next visits Valhalla, MI, Asheville, N.C., Grand Rapids, MI and Madison, WI.
(Photo credit: Jeremy Cowart)