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Review: Indigo Girls at the Palladium

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Indigo Girls
The Palladium, July 10
3.5 stars

This was a double treat for me: my first live Indigo Girls concert and my first visit to Carmel's Palladium. I came away with great appreciation for both, as one complemented the other quite nicely.

The Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, began their concert with the remark "The place is something," referring to the Palladium, and launched into a rollicking "Love of Our Lives." This song established a common theme of the duo, who for over twenty years has been singing about the ferocity of love — love against all odds, love transcendent over all.

The Girls kept up a steady stream of songs, nearly each one necessitating an exchange of guitars, which seemed overly strenuous from my standpoint. But it was pleasing to hear the different sounds come from the myriad of strings: guitars, mandolins and a banjo, in the acoustically-sublime space of the Palladium.

A few brave souls stood and began dancing, there was one even dancing in the aisle; for a moment, I thought it was me, but she was blond and she was a she. By the perfect love song, "Power of Two," the crowd was in full sing-along mode, and therein lay the true charm of the Palladium.

It's an enormous oval space; it's been oft-putting to some, but I liked it upon entrance. Of course, the performance vector is proscenium-oriented — i.e. performers on stage perform TO the crowd (though there are seats behind the stage, which seems kind of awkward). Yet, the overall space feels "round" so at a concert like this, when everyone is singing along (including myself), it really does feel like a concert in the round.

They played two songs off their next release and both were musically intricate. I didn't catch the song tunes, nor the name of the album, but I'll be purchasing it. Ray sang the first one; it was a mournful tune about being disconnected from a lover; the line "I wish I could be there to share the moon" was intoned a number of times. Saliers followed up with her love song, not before remarking, with a healthy dollop of self-deprecation, that her song, too, involved invoking the moon. "After all these years," she told the audience, she still finds herself writing "about the moon" when seeking inspiration for love songs.

The highlight of the evening was Amy Ray taking the lead on "Three County Highway." I tend, in my listening of the Indigo Girls (remember, this was my first live concert experience of them), to soar with Saliers vocals, as Ray counterpoints with her harmony. Here, Ray was front and center, with her dulcet baritone, sad and melancholy, the longing for love laced in every note.

"Closer to Fine" finished off the concert, one of the more adventurous pop song explorations of the soul's path to enlightenment. Everyone was on their feet by then, singing and swaying.

The encores included predictable favorites, but the stunner was an a cappella cover of a Simon and Garfunkel's "American Tune." The Girls sang in pin-drop silence, the Palladium awash in awe.

Next up at Palladium Emmylou Harris on Wednesday. For tickets: www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.

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