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Girls just wanna have folk: (l-r) Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.

photo:Joe Putrock

Girls’ Night Out
By Kathryn Lurie

Indigo Girls

The Egg, Feb. 11

Last Saturday night saw the Egg’s Hart Theater packed to the brim with very excited women. Grinning women, singing women, dancing women. Hooting women, clapping women, whooping women. There were a few guys in attendance, and they were excited too, but my God, the female audience members were just overjoyed to be there. In a rare moment of calm, a woman a row in front of me poked her companion in the shoulder repeatedly, hissing, “Can you believe we’re actually here? I’m so psyched!”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen (but mostly ladies): This hullabaloo was all due to the main Saturday event. The Indigo Girls were in town.

Emily Saliers and Amy Ray have performed their brand of Southern, bluegrass-inflected folk rock for more than two decades, and if Saturday was any indication, these girls have been creating hubbubs all over the place. Saliers (the blonde one) sports a bright, melodic voice while Ray (the brunette) possesses moodier, deeper vocals. Together, they produce heart- stopping harmonies that showcase their smart, meticulously crafted songwriting.

On Saturday, the Atlanta-based duo took the stage looking more punk than folk with ripped jeans and T-shirts, and opened with 2004’s “Fill It Up Again,” a newer tune but a crowd-pleaser nonetheless. They followed up with “Get Out the Map,” “Thin Line,” and then one of their super-popular love songs, “Power of Two.”

“All That We Let In,” a beautiful finger-picked ballad of love, loss and politics, off 2004’s album of the same name, was a high point of the set, its lyrics as poignant as ever: “One day those toughies will be withered up and bent/The father, son and the holy warriors and the president/The glory days of put up dukes for all the world to see/Beaten into submission in the name of the free.”

Another great bit of political commentary came when Amy Ray sang the lyrically biting, anthemic “Let it Ring” off her 2005 solo record, Prom.

The Girls changed out guitars on practically every song; on occasion they would trade in their 12- and 6-strings for a banjo and mandolin.

And so it went—two hours of nonstop (with the exception of the presence of an unacceptable harmonica that made Ray stop in her tracks for a minute during “Dairy Queen”) stripped-down performance with drop-ins by the Girls’ bus driver/keyboard player Rick, and opening act Three5Human, who also stayed through the raucous three-song encore, which was, appropriately, ended with “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

While the Girls covered their canon of hits pretty thoroughly—including “Ghost,” “Galileo,” and the Grammy-winning “Closer to Fine”—the early ’90s success “Least Complicated” was notably absent from the setlist.

It’s really a pleasure to witness the Indigo Girls’ live performances; their tunes are infused with much more energy than on any studio album I’ve heard by them. Live, Ray and Saliers are able to stretch and show off their voices. The aforementioned audience reaction at the Egg’s Hart Theater didn’t hurt things at all either. Fans were singing and dancing, swaying and hooting. I was pretty sure they were going to rush the stage, but they were able to maintain control. Somewhat.

Openers Three5Human—a four-piece rock outfit also hailing from Atlanta—boasted the phenomenal lead vocals of Trina Meade, whom the Indigo Girls said they knew for years—once upon a time, they were in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar together in Atlanta. Three5Human gave a soulful, vigorous performance of pure soul rock that the audience absolutely ate up.

Joy Finds a Way

David Bromberg

The Egg, Feb. 10

If David Bromberg looks like anything these days, it’s a mild-mannered literature professor. At the Egg, it was evident that the keen wolfishness of his ’70s heyday had evolved into a sort of genteel, dusty-gray and benign middle age (complete with khaki slacks belted high around an ample waist).

Appearances aside, Bromberg was far from toothless when it came to performing: He hit the stage at the Hart Theater in full musical stride with his band on Friday night, rolling out his eclectically inventive yet historically potent brand of roots music. (And remember: This is a performer who—beyond his own impressive songwriting history—has backed Bob Dylan and cowritten with George Harrison.)

The Hart Theater was packed to the gills with the typical Brombergian audience: baby boomered, ideologically a bit left of center, with a whole lot of gray-bearded heads bopping in unison.

Bromberg—switching between acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and violin—joked at one point that the wheeling, diversely influenced instrumental “Midnight on the Water” was “a sobriety test” for him and his band. They passed muster in style though, with mandolinist Mitch Corbin and violinist Jeff Wisor particularly shining.

Live, Bromberg’s music is a kind of pan-Atlantic folk—and that barely contains the lot of it. His three-man horn section was a sort of rogues gallery of diverse personalities and shapes, from the lean, ascetic Scandinavian Zen of trumpet player Peter Ecklund (who barely seemed to register a pulse when not blowing) to slide trombonist Curt Linberg (gregariously squat and white-bearded) to bald-pated hipster John Firmin (on clarinet, sax, and pennywhistle). The trio added rapturous New Orleans blasts even to such dusty Americana traditionals as “Make Me a Pallete on the Floor” or “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.” It was a striking combination, cutting gleefully against the bluegrass and folk strains. At times, the band even lilted full tilt into breathtaking, penny-whistle-laced Celtic workouts.

Also particularly impressive was the rhythm section of Butch Amiot and Richard Crooks, who stitched a tight, sturdy pocket around which everything else unfolded.

Bromberg’s range throughout the night veered between mighty acoustic folk workouts and bluesily existential barroom rumination. But the secret, whether sailing on the bright blasts of the horn section or merely riding the waves of Bromberg’s youthful vigor, was that joy could find expression even in music’s deepest, darkest moments. It was a spirited night of music.

—Erik Hage

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