Kaw Valley Independent (Lawrence, Kan.)
By Joel Francis
It is impossible for the Indigo Girls to separate their music from their activism. Their 90-minute set at the Lied Center last week not only brought out the fans, but the plight of Leonard Peltier, the American Buffalo and environmental issues.
The Girls opened their set with a moving version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” that featured Emily Saliers on piano and Amy Ray on guitar. After the song the duo yielded the stage to Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth project director. They returned aided only by accordion and piano player Carol Issacs for an all-acoustic set that included “Get Out the Map,” “Power of Two” and a reworking of “Go” that did not lose any of its electricity despite being unplugged.
The Girls also premiered two new tracks, “Devotion” and “Leaving,” that were released on the new best-of “Retrospective.” The crowd responded enthusiastically and sang along like they were old standards.
“We put two brand new songs on (the collection) because we wanted the fans to have something new,” Saliers said in telephone interview the day before the concert. “Picking the songs for the new album wasn’t nearly as difficult as putting together 1,200 Curfews, our live album. We just picked songs that we liked and we both agreed on it together.”
The set climaxed with “Kid Fears” when supporting act Shawn Mullins and reprised the vocals originally recorded by Michael Stipe. The trio’s voices blended and danced around the room leaving the audience awestruck. Later, on “Galileo,” Ray and Saliers yielded the mic to the crowd, who didn’t miss a beat or a lyric.
The Girls closed a jubilant night on the Honor the Earth Tour on a bill shared with Mullins and the all-Native American blues band Indigenous, each of whom received standing ovations at the end of their sets.
“The Honor the Earth tour is something Amy and I have been doing for almost seven years now,” Saliers said. “It has very specific social, political focuses that have to do with environmental issues on Native lands.”
This year’s issues included the slaughter of buffalos in Yellowstone Park and nuclear waste dumping on Native American land.
“It’s impossible to be an environmentalist and not consider indigenous issues,” Saliers said. “I think Americans need to see what kind of environmental racism is going on in impoverished communities and the responsibility for the nuclear industry to take care of its waste.”
To show their willingness to put their money where their mouths (or hearts) are, the Indigo Girls have released another new track, “Pt. Hope.” The song was recorded live in Atlanta and is available only by download at Indigogirls.com for $3.60.
“Three dollars of that money goes to Honor the Earth,” Saliers said. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful song that Amy wrote that deals with a lot of the issues that we’re covering on the tour.”
The Indigo Girls are not slowing down once the Honor the Earth tour wraps up. Ray will release her first solo record in February. Both Girls will return to the studio in May to record their ninth album. Saliers said the new album would have an intimate sound and return to their acoustic roots.
“We don’t want to belabor over this record,” Saliers said. “We just want to write strong songs and get in there and do it in a way that’s pure and catch the emotion of the songs.”
That emotion was undeniable on Saturday night.
“We’re passionate about these issues. If you’re going to write a song, you have to write about something you’re really thinking about or feeling,” Saliers said. “We’re activists and we come from the question of what can be done to help rectify a bad situation”