Concert Review: Indigo Girls and RIPO Charm at PPAC

The Indigo Girls returned to the Providence Performing Arts Center Thursday night for a special performance with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra (RIPO). The award-winning duo was impressive as always, and their “backing band” was essentially a co-star for the evening, garnering equal, if not louder, applause on several occasion.

The duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are an established force in modern music, complete with chart-topping hits and a message of social action since the late 1980s. They ruled the Newport Folk Festival in the ’90s and have always been adored by their RI audience.

Thursday’s show was part of a series of concerts they are playing with orchestras across the county. The shows may be less spontaneous than a regular gig, but the blending of their harmonies along with the symphonic magnitude of the Philharmonic makes for a unique and exceptional concert. “We can’t do requests with a symphony,” joked Saliers, as calls for audience favorites rang out.

A show like this yields numerous highlights. Popular hits like the opener “Wood Song,” “Mystery” and the rowdy “Chickenman” were crowd favorites. First set closer “Galileo,” saw the crowd on their feet singing along to every lyric, as did the show closer, “Closer to Fine.”

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Lesser known songs like “Love of Our Lives,” a tribute to Saliers’ father, and “Yoke,” with its building crescendo’s gave the orchestra a chance to shine. Other highlights included the duo trading lyrics with the crowd on “Kid Fear,” the always popular ‘Virginia Woolf,” and “Power of Two,” an early classic from the band.

Saliers and Ray thanked the Philharmonic more than once, pointing out the significance of this grand local institution. Resident Conductor Francisco Noya was impressive, commanding his legions throughout the evening, while giving deference to the duo out front. This is one of those nights when you wish you had stuck with those music lessons and could be a small part of such an undertaking, (no easy task of course).

Along with whimsical love songs, the underlying message of the Indigo Girls is one of political empowerment and social action. That voice, a presence throughout their shows, continues to resonate. They exude compassion – even with a symphony behind them – attending an Indigo Girls shows feels like a warm evening around the fire with old friends. Don’t miss them when they come around again!

And don’t miss the RI Philharmonic this season! Performances of Holst’s “The Planets” are scheduled for the upcoming weekend. Details here.

Enjoy a few snapshots of the evening below. (All photos: Ken Abrams)