seattlesoundmag.com: Amy Ray Rocked Neumo’s Last Night
Amy Ray rocks. Let me just get that out of the way. If you’ve come to know her as one half of the deliciously shmaltzy folk-pop duo Indigo Girls (which is more than likely the case), you may be surprised at how hard she rocks. Ray is hardly the only member of a long-standing, much-beloved band who has flirted with a solo career. But when you strip away the intricate counterpoint harmonies, banjos and acoustic guitars, what’s left, really, but to rock out?
Last night, she was joined by what can only be called an all-star rocker chick band: Julie Wolf (Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams) on keys, guitarist Kaia Wilson and drummer Melissa York (both of Team Dresch and the Butchies), and Brandi Carlile (herself) on backing vocals. Greg Griffith, who also produced Ray’s latest disc, was representing the male demographic on bass. Then of course there was Ray, herself, whose face only lit with more joy and delight the harder the band was rocking—when she could bounce her big black boots over Wilson’s ripping guitar solos, sweat pouring, York pounding hard on the snare and tom, Carlile holding the mic stand at arm’s length, bouncing in a barely-contained rock-out like a self-conscious pogo stick.
There are always some sound balancing issues at Neumo’s and it was unfortunate, given the super skills of the backing band, that the keys, Wilson’s backing vocals and even at times Carlile’s enormous voice were difficult to hear. Granted I was standing beneath the main speakers, so people a few rows behind me may have heard everything in the mix just fine.
These gals (and guy) are long-time pros, though, and they ripped hard through tunes from Ray’s three solo albums—mostly Prom and Didn’t It Feel Kinder (the latest). This included a tight rendition of “Driver Education” from Prom, which she reworked for an upcoming Indigo Girls double-disc (Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, due Mar. 24). “Cold Shoulder” and “Lucystoners” rocked the hardest, although Ray and Carlile’s vocal collaboration on “Stand and Deliver” stood up as the night’s best moment.
The encore saw Carlile alone and acoustic for a turn on “The Story.” Even though she’s probably sung that tune a few hundred thousand times at this point, the fact that she can still wring emotion from it is impressive in itself. Nevermind the well-timed growling that turns right around and whispers. The jewel of the encore, though, was when she and Ray shared a mic and ripped through “Johnny Rottentail” accompanied only by Ray’s percussive mandolin. Rocking hard with a full band and a bevy of electric instruments and effects pedals is one thing. Doing so with nothing but two voices and a little piece of wood with strings on it is just golden.