On a parching 90 degree evening over three thousand ecstatic fans crowded into the newly renovated Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre located high on the hill of University of Utah’s south campus to enjoy the Indigo Girls sold out concert. Even a number of ticket-less fans sat on the knolls surrounding the venue for a listen to the Grammy-winning duo.
Because of last year’s multimillion dollar renovation, the amphitheatre is now larger, the new stage shaped like the rear ramp of a cargo plane and the once u-shape line of port-a-potties has been replaced by large, easily accessible permanent bathrooms. However, what little shade-providing foliage the general lawn-seating venue once had has now been replaced by a number of table umbrellas located on a terrace at the back of the venue that only “VIP” members are lucky enough to take cover under.
Thankfully the rest of the crowd had to weather the extreme temperature for only a short time as a sheet of clouds drew in to hide the sun just as Gregory Alan Isakov took stage as the opening act. Also a folk singer/songwriter with a strong lyrical sense to his work, Isakov is a great accompaniment to the Indigo Girls, especially as witnessed later in the evening when he returned onstage to sing with the Girls. One audience member said of the Boulder, Colo.-based artist, “His voice sounds a bit like Bruce Springsteen,” but dipped in honey. Isakov has also toured with such artists as Fiona Apple and Ani DiFranco.
At approximately 8:15 p.m., as the temperature dropped to comfort, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers walked on stage to a roaring crowd. They opened with “Love of Our Lives,” a bittersweet single from their new independent album Poseidon and the Bitter Bug – a tribute, if you will, to the need and desire for love and the rights that should come with it – and immediately followed by Amy expressing to the crowd, “You look beautiful out there!” which heaved another jovial cheer.
The Girls didn’t forgo some of their biggest hits unlike many tenured artists tend to do; yet another reason the Girls’ loyal fan base doesn’t alter from disappointment. Early into the concert, the Girls electrified the audience with an energized performance of “Least Complicated” from 1994’s Swamp Ophelia. They moved on stage as if mirror images of each other, and encouraged the crowd to sing along, which it ecstatically obliged – as it did again, shortly thereafter, with another hit “Power of Two.”
The evening proceeded on, rather too quickly though, and as audience members celebrated decades of the Indigo Girls – including 1992’s “Galileo,” 1997’s “Get Out The Map” and 2009’s “Ghost of the Gang” – over picnics and conversation with friends and acquaintances, there was a sense of ease and community that took over that only masters of performance, like Amy and Emily, can conjure.