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Indigo Girls - Leadmill, Sheffield, 21/7/2017

  by Nicky Crewe

published: 12 / 8 / 2017

Indigo Girls - Leadmill, Sheffield, 21/7/2017


Nicky Crewe gets to experience the Power of Two with the Indigo Girls and a very special ‘family’ gathering after their long absence from touring the UK.

A combination of torrential rain, Tramlines Festival road closures and the most morose taxi driver in Sheffield meant I got to the Leadmill just in time to catch the last song from Lucy Wainwright Roche. I was disappointed because this was one of those gigs where the supporting artist means as much to me as the main act. I needn’t have worried. Lucy became an Indigo Girl for the night, sharing vocal harmonies and guitar on over half of the Indigo Girls’ set. I discovered the Indigo Girls relatively recently, given that their successful career stretches back to the mid 1980s. They are Grammy award winners, songwriters for a generation (and their children), icons of the LGBT movement, environmental activists, political commentators, poets and philosophers. Their songs explore themes of love and loss from a personal perspective that is always authentic and often radical. They have taken on the music industry on their own terms, releasing music independently since 2007. Their musical career together goes all the way back to 1985, but they have known each other since elementary school. There’s an independence in the way they write, perform and record too. Songs are written individually, and there are solo releases and projects. Originally described as folk rock, their music defies description. It’s folk in that they sing harmonies and include mandolin, ukelele and banjo. It’s rock in the power of their vocals and Emily Saliers’ guitar playing. They are playing the Cambridge Folk Festival at the end of July. The Leadmill audience were with them from the minute they stepped on stage with a rapturous welcome. Kicking off with ‘It’s Alright’ and ‘Yield’, suddenly Lucy Wainwright Roche appeared on stage with a birthday cake complete with candles. It was Emily Saliers’ birthday. The audience sang a rousing ‘Happy Birthday’ and the mood was set for a "family" celebration. With a legacy of songs to choose from across four decades, their set included old favourites and some new material. The audience were in great voice for the chorus of ‘Fill It Up Again’, ‘Heartache’ followed, and audience members were recognised from previous dates on this tour. Why wouldn’t you follow them around. It’s been a long time coming. There was a huge amount of love in the room and as they sang their wonderful song ‘Power of Two’ the emotion in the room was overwhelming. The Leadmill audience sang along from their hearts. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers create harmonies that work beautifully together and the addition of Lucy Wainwright Roche complemented their sound She has recorded with them and shared the vocals of 'Spread The Pain Around'. She also joined them for ‘Get Out The Map’, introduced as the first song Emily had written on the banjo. ‘Shame on You’ followed. ‘Let It Be Me’ was introduced as an old but politically relevant song. Someone in the crowd shouted for the ‘Wood Song’. Was this telepathy? It was the next song on the set list. There was a huge response to ‘Land of Canaan’ the connection with the audience and the artists was getting stronger by the song. ‘Able to Sing’ lived up to the title. Emily Saliers then introduced a new song from her upcoming solo album, ‘Train Inside’. Lucy and Amy returned to the stage for ‘Making Promises’. ‘Elizabeth’ explored the dangers of looking for old loves on Facebook. There was also a great conversation about children and parenting, after a break from touring to raise their respective daughters, Amy and Emily both talked about not finding it as hard as they thought to be back on the road. They floated the idea of bringing their daughters with them next time to the delight of the audience. A powerful version of ‘Go’ followed. The final number of the set was ‘Galileo’, with the audience singing along. Totally uplifting and inspiring. Their first encore was ‘The Hammond Song’, dedicated to the Roches and especially to Lucy’s aunt Maggie Roche who passed 6 months ago. It was a lovely tribute to Lucy’s musical heritage, and Amy and Emily acknowledged the influence the Roches had on them in their early days. The final encore was a fabulous version of ‘Closer to Fine’. The Leadmill is a venue that encourages a close connection between audience and artist. It’s old school with its sticky floors and turnstile entrance. The whole evening was an uplifting and inspiring experience, with insights into the lives of these great songwriters who continue to put into song what their fans want to hear and say.

Also at Leadmill, Sheffield

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Indigo Girls - Leadmill, Sheffield, 21/7/2017

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