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Indigo Girls’ songs thrive with symphony

Amy Ray (left) and Emily Saliers gelled well with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra. Photos: Melissa Ruggieri

Amy Ray (left) and Emily Saliers gelled well with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra. Photos: Melissa Ruggieri

[I'm on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest rock news. Tune in to hear what's up!]

“This is the biggest band we’ve ever had,” Emily Saliers joked from the stage, motioning to the 40-plus musicians behind her and musical partner Amy Ray.

Since this summer, the Indigo Girls have dotted their tour schedule with shows backed by local symphonies, so for their Atlanta homecoming at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Friday night, the girls were backed by the Georgia Symphony Orchestra with the engaging Michael Alexander conducting.

For some – most, really – bands, dressing their songs in a symphonic cloak might make their music sound disjointed or overwrought. But the Indigo Girls’ 25-year catalog thrived, with racing cellos backing “Compromise” and touches of flute on “The Wood Song.”

No matter how many times you may have witnessed them live over the years – and considering the dedication of their fan base, it’s probably been in the dozens for most – this setting provided a freshness that only added, never subtracted, from their songs. Saliers and Ray also seemed jazzed by their surroundings, commenting more than once about how much fun they were having and performing with unforced geniality.

It’s amazing, really, that after two and a half decades together, these two are still ideal partners, their opposite-tone voices harmonizing mellifluously and their tart (Ray) and honeyed (Saliers) song styles perfect complements.

Saliers' voice is as sweet as ever.

Saliers' voice is as sweet as ever.

At Friday’s nearly sold-out show, the pair zig-zagged through their musical history, from 1990’s “World Falls” to 2009’s “Sugar Tongue” to last year’s lyrically intriguing “Able to Sing.” Though the girls cracked a few jokes about the melancholy, lovelorn nature of many of their songs – “Nothing like a little light-hearted Indigo Girls tune for the holidays,” Saliers quipped after the heartwrenching “Come on Home” – they didn’t neglect their most familiar offerings.

“Power of Two,” still their most gorgeous song – lyrically and melodically – simmered in its own sweetness, while the Ray-fronted “Kid Fears” included a call-and-response of the “Are you on fire?” refrain. The passionate rendition of the song spurred the first ovation of the night, with many in the crowd remaining on their feet for “Galileo,” one of the pair’s few traditional radio hits.

The riveted crowd heartily crooned the bridge of “Galileo” as Ray, Saliers and the GSO played along. It wasn’t too much of a stretch since most people in the room had, at some point in their lives, probably sung it with the car windows rolled down, also wondering how long until their souls get it right.

Ray appeared to have a blast on stage.

Ray appeared to have a blast on stage.

After a 15-minute intermission, the Indigo Girls and GSO returned with “Love of Our Lives” from 2009’s “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug” album and, a few songs later, returned to their mid-‘90s era for “Fugitive.”

Throughout out the show, there were subtle reminders that playing with a symphony means there is no hiding wobbly vocals behind heavy drums or bass. Voices and harmonies are front and center, raw and naked.

But followers of the duo know that even since their days performing around Emory University, the Indigo Girls have defined real. Nice to see that hasn’t changed.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

25 comments Add your comment


December 8th, 2012
12:36 am

Yo…just got back from Cobb County….where 1,385 Dekalb Co residents showed up to compliment the 12 people from REDNECK-COBB who bothered to stroll down I-75 for a 75% full concert.

I have now seen Emily & Amy play 75 times in the last 23 years and am moving to Los Angeles next Sunday the 16th. I am a SWM and have given up on Georgia…I suggest you punch your OLD WHITE REBUBLICAN politician IN THE FACE and come join me for a quality smoke out West.


December 8th, 2012
6:31 am

What a wonderful review, Melissa. I was lucky enough to be front and center last night at Cobb and you have described the experience to a tee!! Thanks!! :-) .

“Gotta get out of bed and grab a hammer and a nail and learn how to use my hands.”


December 8th, 2012
8:33 am

ozz have fun with the rest of the idiots. You want to see opressive laws well get ready, California has more laws about stupid sheot on the books than anywhere I have ever lived. I love the indigo girls but they are out of style so 75% is pretty good. They won’t fill a house in Cali, to many rap azzhats and gang bangers. You want to see some culture and good music go to the NorthWest I lived in Seattle for 5 years and bumbershoot is a awesome venue. Cali is old news.

Just sayin

December 8th, 2012
8:38 am

I thought Cobb County was being boycotted by the gay & lesbian community because of its pro-family, pro-conservative, pro-American flag stances?


December 8th, 2012
9:35 am

What an awesome and inspiring show! The Girls bring it every single time and have done so for a number of years. Let’s see how many of today’s so called musical artists are still relevant in 25 years.

Rick James

December 8th, 2012
10:30 am

Hope we get a live CD or DVD from these shows..

Cobb Liberal

December 8th, 2012
11:52 am

Not all Cobb County folks are tea-party rednecks. Some of us love the Indigo Girls (even if previous commitment meant we couldn’t attend) and also love Decatur and Dekalb County. Ozzfest – enjoy the “left coast”. We’re going to stay here in Cobb and mellow out. BTW, pro-family doesn’t automatically mean bigoted & anti-gay and lots of progressive thinkers still respect and honor our nation’s flag. Stereotypes and prejudices are destructive no matter who they’re coming from.


December 8th, 2012
12:43 pm

yeah ozzfest enjoy your tax bill out in LA.


December 8th, 2012
1:34 pm

hhhmmmm….ever heard of the Getty Center?

DeKalb lifer

December 8th, 2012
1:37 pm

I’m surprised my girls would play a venue in Cobb County. That county doesn’t get one cent of mine, or any other “red county” for that matter.

I won’t go anywhere I feel intolerance or insensitivity. If I want to hold hands with my lover in public, smoke a little weed, or do some nude gardening in my backyard, I’ll stay here in DeKalb County.

Gresham Brown

December 8th, 2012
1:51 pm

But what about the black people?


December 8th, 2012
9:44 pm

Gross, DeKalb lifer, gross. I’m glad I live OTP where I don’t have to see gross people like you in public!

Billy Beaneater

December 9th, 2012
11:32 am

Came here for the review. Staying here for the comments. Cage match in L5p. I’ll take Dekalb Lifer over Gross and Just Sayin, with Gresham Brown as my darkhorse. Gotta love ya Gross. OTP needs you to bang the gong of righteousness and ungrossness.


December 9th, 2012
1:38 pm

Ah, I still long for the evenings experienced at “Excelsior Mill”, “Good Ol’ Days”, and “Little Five Points Pub”. The background sounds of passing traffic, clinging glasses, clanging silverwear, and ‘have another beer, Jim’ are as fresh as ever and only added to the naturalness of the music and the blended harmonies.

Middle Aged, Straight, Average White Guy

December 9th, 2012
1:46 pm

Bye bye, “ozzfest”: anything we can do to help get you outta here quicker?! And we don’t need your bragging about how many attendances you made —- quite sure others have equalled or surpassed that, and probably in the early days before band-wagon-jumper-ons showed up. (WE saw them, as Amy and Emily, before Indigo Girls was formed. WE saw them, outside of performance venues. WE saw them, as friends. And “WE” say to you, go somewhere else to pat yourself on the back and inflate your ego, and keep your insults to yourself.)


December 9th, 2012
2:35 pm

My partner and I live in Cobb County and have encountered nothing but open-minded, accepting neighbors. We are very “out” and haven’t experienced anything negative in well over a year here. We live in Smyrna based on affordability, lower crime rates, and a convenient location for my job. Other places might be seen as more progressive, but Cobb is on its way, too. It seems like there is a lot of judgement from people based on where you live in and around Atlanta (OTP/ITP), and it’s frustrating. I don’t like being told that I should live some place because that’s where all the other lesbians/liberals/young people/you name it are living. To me, that’s a form of self-segregation. On my street, we have black, white, Latino, asian, old, young, single, married, and gay people living within a one block radius. We talk to each other on the street and hang out, and THAT’s why we love it here. We are all ONE BIG COMMUNITY.

Ozztwerp's Mama

December 9th, 2012
5:02 pm

Ozztwerp, good riddance…..


December 9th, 2012
6:45 pm

I was one of the cellists who was lucky enough to play with the Indigo Girls Saturday night. I have been a musician for 17 years and have played with many different groups. I just have to say that the Indigo Girls were some of the most fun, genuine, and musically talented people I have ever met. They have no airs about them and were very inviting and engaging with the orchestra during our rehearsal, even taking pictures with us during their break. I was truly honored to play for them and to get to meet them.


December 9th, 2012
7:18 pm

I’ve been in love with the harmonies of the Indigo Girls since 1989, and if anything, they’ve gotten better as the years have gone by. In the age of autotune, it is a real treat to hear consummate musicians who perform in such an authentic way. I live in Cobb and love the Indigo Girls and the Georgia Symphony both. Michael Alexander is wonderful. Oh, and the oboe player rocked!


December 9th, 2012
9:29 pm

DeKalb is old news. Nobody wants to be there anymore. Didn’t you know, Obama won Marietta. The old Cobb hicks, retired now, all fled to Bartow, Cherokee and Paulding counties. It sure sounded like the Indigo Girls knew about this change!


December 10th, 2012
4:34 am

CelloPlayer-It is great hearing from some of the orchestra members that are positive. Amy and Emily are much more in tune with the arranging than some other bands are. The acoustics at Cobb Center and the Georgia Symphony were just wonderful. I’ve seen their symphony shows in two other cities, and Friday’s was by far the best. Y’all were spot on, and I am so glad y’all were as thrilled to play with them, as I know they were to play with y’all.


December 10th, 2012
11:04 am

Loved the show. Hey Ozzfest – I’m also a Cobb Liberal and proud of it. I live in east Cobb and have several friends who are gay couples (some with children) and (gasp!) they live in east Cobb also!! Amazing what you can find out about people when you take time to listen to their stories before painting their picture.


December 10th, 2012
11:32 am

ha ha, Billy. I’m with you. Gotta make that show next year! and yes on CobbGayGal’s definition of Community. we’re all in this together.

markie mark

December 10th, 2012
2:28 pm

seeing the comments here, kinda makes ya wonder why ozzfest is REALLY leaving ATL…….


December 12th, 2012
1:50 pm

I’d say celloplayer won by 10 lengths. huzzah!