Word by Shelby Bretschger
reCAP :: Indigo Girls w/ Becky Warren :: 2016.11.03
Nov 09 / Wednesday
Upon entering The Capitol Theatre on Thursday night, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been inside the rock hall and admired its vintage beauty, but never had I had the pleasure of attending a concert there.
The walls were glistening with projected lights and the seats were in place for an intimate evening. Such is for any vintage act, the crowd clearly contained varying degrees of fandom. Some had been religiously following the girls since day one, and some came mostly for classics like “Closer to Fine” and “Galileo”. Regardless, each audience member was excited to witness two legendary ladies who have so strongly influenced today’s music industry.
Americana singer-songwriter Becky Warren was the perfect opener to excite such an eager crowd. Although Warren produces as a solo artist, her set included a drummer, a stand-up bassist, and an electric guitarist. The quartet performed tracks from War Surplus, her debut album following the story of a war veteran named Scott and his girlfriend, June.
Warren’s story-telling ability was instantly apparent, but no one got me more excited to see the Indigo Girls than Warren’s accompanying guitarist, Avril Smith. Virtuoso Smith, clad in all denim, cowboy boots, and a pink scarf around her neck, defied the expectations of women rockers as she gracefully shredded the strings of her electric instrument. Upbeat hit, “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”, showcased Smith ferociously noodling as Warren told the story of an Iraq war veteran reflecting on their decision to enlist in the military.
It soon became clear that this night was about more than great music. This night was about badass female musicians and shattering any preconceived expectation concerning their abilities to rock.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers soon took the stage with grace and conviction. Contrary to some of their past tours, there were no accompanying musicians with them. Just two women, a sold-out concert hall, and dozens of stringed instruments being swapped in and out in between songs.
A few songs into the set, Saliers introduced “Elizabeth” as a piece from their most recent album One Day More, written about her time studying in New Orleans at Tulane University. I grew up listening to Rites of Passage on road trips with my father, but didn’t dip my feet in their new tunes until recently. This particular song struck me more than anything played that night and I had never even listened to it before. Its reminiscent tone tore at the heartstrings of anyone who reflects romantically on their past, but stands today, numbingly indifferent. As I sat alone in the mezzanine, listening to Saliers lament youthful memories of a past relationship, I found my eyes leaking in pure awe. Her concluding lyrics, “I’m pretty sure it’s just enough that I remember you fondly” were simple, powerful, and left me questioning the comfort of closure.
Other highlights of the show included, “Go” featuring some sweet guitar noodling from Saliers and, “Dairy Queen” highlighting Amy Ray with a harmonica strapped around her neck and a guitar in her hands. Saliers tugged at heartstrings with “Elizabeth” and a track from her upcoming solo record. The girls also delivered an unplanned performance of “Ghost” upon audience request. Classic and closer, “Galileo” got people back on their feet and singing along. Encore “Closer to Fine” was also an ultimate crowd pleaser, including a guest appearance from opener Becky Warren singing along with the legendary ladies.
Some shows are head bangers; meant for raging. Some, on the other hand, are designed for its audience to intently witness the inspiring spectacle before them. Crying alone at an Indigo Girls concert wasn’t exactly on my agenda, but I am elated to know that two queer women in their fifties could provide me with one of the most intimate and musically engaging shows of my young adult life. They delicately finger picked and confidently shredded. They harmonized beautifully, provided emotional and timeless lyrics, and catered to an audience spanning generations and tastes. As a musician, I felt inspired. But as a woman, I felt empowered. These women express themselves unapologetically and their performance at The Capitol Theatre was unforgettable.