Indigo Girls + Lucy Wainwright Roche – Live at the Bierkeller, Bristol, 25/07/2017

It might only be July but I think I can confidently say that this was the hottest gig of the year. I’m not necessarily commenting on the quality of the entertainment (more on that later) but for some inexplicable reason, the Bierkeller decided to keep their air-con system and strategically placed giant fans just for looking at which made for an incredibly hot, sweaty and, frankly, unenjoyable atmosphere. Never fear, though, opening act Lucy Wainwright Roche is a cool cucumber of a customer and soon has the swelling crowd eating out of the palm of her hand – musically and on a personal level. Singing her own material as well as a macabre nursery rhyme written with half-sister Martha Wainwright, it was easy to see LWR’s musical heritage shining through from both the Wainwright and Roche musical dynasties. Aside from the music, there was some gentle but well observed banter around the seeming indifference of the English public to the constantly changing currency as well as some hints to the cabin fever that builds up when touring as a solo artist.

We thought we’d seen the last of Lucy Wainwright Roche when the need for fresh air meant that we missed the end of her set but, fortuitously, when Atlanta duo Indigo Girls took to the stage amidst rapturous applause, they were joined by Lucy Wainwright Roche on backing vocals and the talented Lyris on violin duties. There’s a special reaction that Amy Ray and Emily Saliers evoke in an audience that borders on hero-worship but is more in awe of the songs these talented women have created over the decades and what those songs mean to their devoted fanbase. Such adoration was repaid within minutes as fan favourites ‘Fill It Up Again’, ‘Power of Two’, ‘Gone Again’ and ‘Go’ get a sing-along going and produce a rousing sound for just four musicians with no percussion other than audience hand claps.

Bouncing around through their country, folk and blues flavoured back catalogue, Saliers and Ray played with warmth, passion and no short measure of talent on whichever stringed instrument they were handed by their hard-working roadie. ‘Woodsong’, ‘Olympia Inn’, ‘Get Out the Map’ and ‘Let It Be Me’ straddle an offering from Ray’s forthcoming solo offering, ‘Train Inside’. The evening climaxes with a joyous, almost biblical ‘Galileo’ which has every word sung passionately back at the stage by a beaming and satisfied (if sweaty) crowd. The standard short pause for chanting is followed by a collective version of ‘Hammond Song’, originally by the Roches, and then a guest is plucked seemingly from the crowd (via a Skype audition) and we are treated to a five-piece rendition of the anthemic ‘Closer to Fine’ featuring the talented Georgia Patterson on vocal duties. All in all, this was an effortless and consummate performance which touched all the high notes of euphoria and the lower notes of political commentary – a dichotomy that has worked so well for this pair for years. In a cooler, more aerated venue there may have even been a second encore but after that rousing final song we all needed to breathe. Don’t leave it so long next time, come back to the UK soon.

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