Indigo Girls – Bristol Bierkeller – 25th July, 2017

I must confess to not knowing too much about Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, the pair that make up American Folk/Rock duo Indigo Girls, before this UK tour was announced. Growing up as a child, I was heavily influenced by my brother and his musical collection, which mainly consisted of hard rock and metal from bands such as Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Aerosmith, and the like.

As much as I still love this genre of music (classic rock, hard rock, blues rock, and metal are my music of choice) I have come to appreciate and love all styles of music (except rap because that’s rhyming slang, right?) over the past decade or so. I now truly love all music, and can go from listening to slit-your-wrist-blues, hypnosis inducing folk, to full on heavy metal, and everything in between; heck, I even enjoyed Kiefer Sutherland and his country music when he came over last month, and I mean, REALLY enjoyed! If only my brother could see me now…

When the press release about the Indigo Girls tour dropped into my inbox, I jumped at the chance to request a photo pass. There was just so much hype about the girls and this tour as it was their first visit to these shores in nearly a decade. I was approved, I was in.

Like I say, I knew very little about Saliers & Ray (one of the duos original names actually) so the next few days were spent listening to their back catalogue and swatting up on a bit of history of the pair.

Armed with slightly more knowledge and their infectious songs fresh in my head, I headed to the Bierkeller in Bristol.

The evening was opened up by Lucy Wainwright Roche, the sister of American Canadian singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright with a laid back folk style. The evening got off to a slow start with Wainwright Roche commenting that that the Bristol crowd must be a shy type. Roche talked to the audience reciting stories about her travels and similar struggles with crowd engagement on her Eastern European travels and this helped break the ice, as did a sing along of Springsteen’s, “Hungry Heart”.

It was now time for the main event, what everyone had been waiting for, Indigo Girls. Amy & Emily entered the stage to raucous applause from a packed and wanting Bierkeller audience. You could already feel the atmosphere and could tell that the crowd were up for this, a stark contrast from Wainwright Roche’s opening set.

I was still not entirely sure what to expect from the pair but what I witnessed was truly something else. The duo ripped through their catalogue of hits, old and new with such ease and proficiency, joined on backing vocals by Wainwright Roche and Violin virtuoso Lyris Hung.

They duo have been performing together since the 80s and although a lot of time has passed, many albums released, and many, many tours completed, you could tell that these pair were not just going through the motions, far from it. You could just tell that these two thoroughly enjoy what they do and wanted to be there. They truly seemed to be loving the UK and were humbled that so many people made the trip out on a Tuesday to see them.

Who would that thought that just two women with two guitars, a mandolin and a ukulele joined only by a violin and a backing singer could produce such a full and powerful sound?
There were many a crowd favourite played from ‘Closer to Fine’, ‘Galileo’ and ‘Let it Be Me’ and at times the crowd were out-singing the venue PA, with incredible passion and love for the pair.

Saliers and Ray briefly left the stage before the now almost obligatory and inevitable encore and the crowd went wild with even more chanting, hand clapping, foot stomping requests for “more”.

And so they returned, joined by their new found friend and up and coming talent Georgia Paris for ‘Closer to Fine’ with Paris taking the lead at times, only to be outshone buy the ever enthusiastic crowd. Georgia is one talent to look out for I reckon.

What was witnessed on Tuesday 25th July 2017 was two hours of outstanding multi instrument mastery, poetic and political, sometimes angry lyrics, passionate storytelling, intricate, beautiful and mesmerising harmonies and a bucket load of earworms to leave with; I was singing all the way back to the hotel. The Indigo Girls music is an infectious rollercoaster ride of emotions, taking you down but immediately bringing you back up again with all the twists and turns a lifetime on the road can bring.

The girls now head to Brighton, Cambridge Folk Festival, and two nights at Islington Assembly Hall London and I urge you to make an effort to see these two girls if you can, you will not be disappointed.

Words and photos by Richard Bolwell

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