October 28 was a special night in South Orange, New Jersey. Indigo Girls did not one, but two shows at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), sheltered in the arms of the South Orange train station. The show I attended was at 10:30 p.m. and the foyer was thronging with people milling about before the house opened. When I picked up my tickets, Volunteer and Performances Manager Grayce Coviello was staffing the Will Call and she told me joyfully that some had come out of the first show and marched right to the box office to buy whatever tickets remained for the second! That’s the power of two!
The concert was the first Indigo Girls show for my companion, who was immediately flagged down by friends from the community. In addition to locals, though, people drove from long distances for this amazing venue–the woman next to us had come from Northampton, Massachusetts and was one of those who had attended the first show as well! The energy was thrumming and it was hard to settle in for the show. After a few words by Mark E. Packer, SOPAC’s Executive Director, who was blown away, having never seen them before, we were on with the show.
First, it was just Amy and Emily, with a guitar wrangler, who was kept working overtime with tuning. I was seated in the audience-right side of the auditorium, with a great view into the wings, where it was complete and total guitar porn. Jazz boxes, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins, a banjo, and more all made appearances, as they changed instruments for every song. And what a catalog from which to choose! They led off with “It’s Alright,” “Become You,” and “Get Out the Map,” which was an interesting trio, especially headed into the election cycle, ironically followed by “Texas Was Clean,” from the album “One Lost Day.” Then came another interesting arc, with “Let It Be Me,” “Kid Fears,” and “Love of Our Lives,” from “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug.” Considering how politically astute Amy and Emily are, the programming could not be accidental.
A familiar favorite like the “Power of Two” was followed by new ones like “Share the Moon” and Emily soloing on “Train Inside,” while later, Amy soloed on “Johnny Rottentale.” We all sang together on the “Wood Song,” some brave souls taking on the violin part that was missing with Lyris Hung, their violinist, on tour working for D’Addario. This made for even closer intimacy, and how would that even be possible, save for the closeness and warmth created in that space.
A highlight for the evening for me was when they did “Virginia Woolf.” Very recently, this past August, my dear friend and frequent concert companion, Kerry Dinkin, was called home. When they began to play, I knew it was Kerry letting us know she was there, as Kerry loved Virginia Woolf and Indigo Girls rarely play this song in concert. What a gift, all around.
After a beautiful evening of music and stories, we got to sing along with “Chicken Man and “Galileo,” and the encores were “Black Messiah” and, of course, “Closer to Fine.” The women and men were all burbling as they walked to the parking lot, sharing their favorite parts of the concert. If they were like me, I floated home, then made a playlist of all my favorite songs, so I could keep the evening alive in my heart. What a venue for masterful musicians and story tellers like Amy and Emily.
SOPAC is conveniently located in the heart of South Orange. Get there by train or car, but get there. Every singer-songwriter is a story teller and even more so with Indigo Girls, who have tapped into the zeitgeist of generations of women’s experience, and watching them perform is as critical as their words. Get more information about what’s up next at www.sopacnow.org