Seven rows away from the stage last night, I sat munching on my chocolate chip cookie, not knowing quite what to expect. I was about to see Amy Ray and Emily Saliers — the Indigo Girls — perform with the Minnesota Orchestra.
As conductor Sarah Hicks and the folk duo walked on stage, a roaring cheer erupted from the crowd, who proceeded to give a standing ovation before anything was played at all.
Saliers’s black ripped jeans and baggy t-shirt, and Ray’s dark plaid shirt and black button-down vest, contrasted with the more formal orchestra attire, but the artists’ musical styles blended perfectly.
The Indigo Girls’ first few acoustic guitar strums were to “The Wood Song” from their 1994 album Swamp Ophelia. The combination of song and style gave the music a cinematic sweep.
As a young voice called out, “We love you guys,” the Girls hit the audience in the gut with “Fugitive.” There was something magical about seeing all the violin bows moving up and down simultaneously, adding depth to the dramatic adventure song.
The mixed audience of old and young generations sang along with Saliers during the performance of “Power of Two.” Bobbing her head to the rhythm, Ray and Saliers showcased their effortless harmonizing skills while trumpets, bongos and cellos joined in.
Ray brought out her banjo for “Damo,” the crowd responding with enthusiastic yelps. The dynamic pair let the orchestra take over during this song, and the players all seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the headliners.
“Sometimes we just can’t play anymore ‘cause we’re so blown away,” said Saliers. “You can’t cry and sing together — doesn’t work.”
I saw one superfan at the edge of her seat for the entirety of the show, hands clasped together at her chin and eyes transfixed on Ray and Saliers. Without shame, she started clapping her hands above her head and was finally compelled to stand up and dance in the middle of the seated crowd.
What was at first just that solo woman standing and swaying became the entire theater during their last song of the set, “Galileo.”
The Indigo Girls have spent 35 years performing together, and it shows: they play as if they’re telepathically synced. I think producing 15 albums (seven gold, four platinum, and one double platinum), earning a Grammy and seven Grammy nominations, and touring arenas, festivals, and clubs around the world together would do that to a duo.
The first song of the second set was “Chickenman,” a back-and-forth exchange between guitars and strings. As big as Orchestra Hall is, during “Mystery,” I noticed that somehow the Girls made the show feel extremely intimate. Maybe it was their songs and the way they got so engrossed in their music, or maybe it was the banter about horoscopes.
After their guitar tuner, Stanley, gave the two their guitars for the song “Yoke,” an audience member yelled out, “He seems very organized, is Stanley a Virgo?” Ray humored the audience, responding with, “Let’s all place bets, I think he’s a Capricorn.” (He was a Scorpio.)
The crowd literally jumped up when the Indigo Girls ended their concert with their 1989 anthem “Closer to Fine,” after “Go” and “Kid Fears.” The pair swaggered off the stage after thanking the Minnesota Orchestra and Hicks.
The Indigo Girls are not your average folk singer-songwriters. They are on another level, performing timeless classics that are worthy of the orchestral treatment they received last night. I only have one word left to describe the concert: epic.
The Wood Song
Power of Two
Come a Long Way
Happy in the Sorrow Key
Love of Our Lives
Closer to Fine