The Indigo Girls are a testament to the power of consistency. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been working together for more than two decades, and their music can be reduced to a formula. The guitars (and occasional mandolins) jangle. The lyrics address love and empowerment. And the lines sometimes overlap, Ray (the low voice) and Saliers (the high one) singing in fugue style -- two tuneful messages for the price of one.
A cynic among the packed house at the 9:30 club on Sunday might say that formula was being bought and guzzled like beer at Camden Yards. The pilgrims sang along, fervently, when they weren't screaming.
The Indigo Girls, shown last year, performed Sunday at the 9:30 club.
(Michael Moore -- AP)
A more generous observer would say that the Girls transcend their formula with exceptional individual skills and the sort of perfectly matched tone and approach one seldom finds outside a sister act. And there's another element to their success: a genuine affection for their audiences. During "The Power of Two," a pledge of love transcending insecurity by a sort of mutual therapy (a lover who's "smarter than the tricks played on your heart" vows, "We'll look at them together, then we'll take them apart"), Ray and Saliers were merely accompanists for the audience, strumming their guitars and beaming as the crowd sang, beautifully, every word.
-- Pamela Murray Winters
The phrase "prog rock" has become anathema even to the genre's most stalwart fans. Pioneered three decades ago by such bands as Yes, King Crimson and Rush, prog's original goal (to advance rock music toward the complexities of jazz and classical) has been overshadowed by its most extreme characteristics: concept albums, meandering songs and over-the-top album artwork.
British proggers Ozric Tentacles embodied some of the genre's most notable traits on Sunday night at the State Theatre in Falls Church. The group relied heavily on keyboards (played by Brandi Wynne and guitarist Ed Wynne), and its long, noodling compositions, while often melodic and engaging, were less like songs than extended jam sessions.
Rather than strumming, Wynne attacked his guitar, turning his long riffs into, essentially, one concert-long guitar solo complemented by an unwavering drum rhythm. The band's fierce tunes, the best of which swirled lithely through the theater's cavernous space, were accented by John Egan's dreamy flute melodies. When Egan wasn't playing he bounced around the stage, his energy keeping the crowd focused through songs that melted into one another with very few breaks.
About two-thirds of the way through the 2 1/2-hour show, Wynne began a song alone onstage, alternating between keyboards and guitar. Eventually the four other members filtered back for a long jam, at the end of which Egan seemed surprised to hear applause and asked the crowd, "Still awake, then?" Unaware that a few fans in the balcony actually were asleep, the group launched into another piece.
-- Catherine P. Lewis