Indigo Girls, Alternate Routes @ the Soiled Dove - Reverb - Reverb

Indigo Girls, Alternate Routes @ the Soiled Dove

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Emily Saliers, in the foreground, and Amy Ray played a lush, if short, set at the Soiled Dove Underground on Wednesday to promo the new Indigo Girls record, due at the end of the month. Photos by Candace Horgan.

Watching the Indigo Girls play a short, radio-sponsored set at the Soiled Dove Underground on Wednesday was liberating – both for the small crowd packed into the intimate Lowry club and the duo, who seemed pleased to play a loose set focusing on new material.

As Emily Saliers told the story of “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug,’ two-disc, self-released set coming out March 24, she seemed even more at ease with the world then she normally does.

“We’re independent now,” Saliers said with a practiced, if goofy, grin. “We can do whatever we want.”

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The crowd, culled from KBCO listeners, liked that. They cheered loudly with each song and story. The night started with Amy Ray on mandolin and Saliers on acoustic for the country-kissed “Yield,” one of the band’s best songs from the last 10 years. The duo played without a backing band as they moved into the new single, “What Do You Like,” a Saliers-fronted song that works better as a full-band song. (Hear a snippet of the full-band track at indigogirls.com.)

Ray’s sleek and new “Sugar Tongue” came after with its sexy slink and the singer’s natural way around a melody, and Saliers’ familiar “Power of Two” followed, the crowd singing along whenever one of the girls would drop out of the mix and give them the look.

I’d seen Ray perform with her solo band in Boulder a few weeks ago (read the review here), and that experience solidified something for me. Ray has grown and progressed as a songwriter as Saliers has stayed true to the style that has made her songs popular for the last two decades. Ray’s songs span the emotional spectrum, lyrically and melodically, and her music has been more rewarding and challenging than Saliers for at least the last two or three Indigo Girls records.

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Whereas I used to see Ray’s solo records as a potent compliment to the catalog that she’s created with the Indigo Girls, I’m now a believer that Ray’s solo work is more important and lasting that the songs the Girls are now churning out.

And so I was pleased to hear Saliers introduce “Driver Education,” a track from Ray’s solo “Prom,” into their set with the note that it’s made the final cut for the new record – in slightly rearranged form. The song loses some of its edge in the context of the Indigo Girls, as it likely has to in order to appeal to the band’s core base. Regardless is was still a highlight of the short, 10-song, 50-minute performance.

After an unfamiliar (and likely new) Saliers ballad came a haunting “Kid Fears,” an early-career track that features R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe in a supporting role on the recording. When played live, the crowd often picks up Stipe’s verse, and that made for a lush moment in the intimate, sound-friendly Soiled Dove. The performance was intense and lovely simultaneously, a true treat for the old-school fans in the house.

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After the emotional outing, Ray and Saliers fielded questions from the crowd – most of which centered on the fact that they haven’t played Red Rocks in a long time.

“We just can’t sell that many tickets anymore,” one of them admitted. The crowd didn’t like that, but Ray later noted that it’s just their reality.

“Besides,” Saliers added, “we love Chautauqua.”

She was referencing the Boulder auditorium they frequent, and while the name-drop drew some applause from the crowd, a significant number of us in the back were talking under our breath of our distaste of the barn-like venue. It’s in a gorgeous area, at the base of the Flatirons, sure. But it’s not much for sightlines, ambiance or sound.

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Ray took the opportunity to tell a story about the time Patti Smith played with the Indigo Girls at Red Rocks. Ray had talked with her on the phone before, and “she knew who I was, right?” Ray said. “But then I went backstage to talk to her before the show, and she asked me, ‘Now which one are you? Siskel or Ebert?”

Another new ditty, “Love of Our Lives,” followed the story and lead into a charmingly folksy Ray tune, another new song. And after a straightforward singalong to “Galileo,” Ray and Saliers waved goodbye and bid the crowd a good night.

It was insanely short for a headlining slot, but an in-and-out set should be expected at a pre-release, free, promo concert. The Girls nailed it, too, spreading the encouraging word of their new material across an even plane of their most memorable songs. Surely they’ll be playing a couple Colorado dates this summer – most likely at Chautauqua and the Denver Botanic Gardens.

More pictures of the Indigo Girls

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Alternate Routes

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