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Indigo Girls compete with a distracted audience at Crossroads KC

Indigo Girls
Indigo Girls Courtesy of High Road Touring

A woman exiting Crossroads KC on Wednesday after Indigo Girls closed Wednesday’s performance with a rendition of “Closer to Fine” told her friends that the duo’s signature hit was “the only song I know and the only song I wanted to hear.”

Her admission helped explain the behavior of a significant portion of the audience of more than 1,500. As is often the case at the outdoor venue in the Crossroads District, many in attendance treated the concert as a social occasion.

Performing without a backing band in a duo format, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers struggled to compete with the din of dozens of boisterous conversations. Only the few hundred people packed shoulder-to-shoulder near the stage were spared the brunt of the incessant chatter.

Ray and Saliers began collaborating as high school classmates in Georgia more than 30 years ago. In addition to becoming one of the music world’s most prominent folk-based acts, the uncompromising duo has been a model of artistic and civic integrity.

They’ve taken forthright stands on a number of social issues, but anyone hoping that they would pepper the concert with spicy commentary on current events left disappointed. Aside from Ray’s dedication of “The Rise of the Black Messiah” to people committed to reform of the criminal justice system, she and Saliers were content to let their songs speak for themselves.

Bias against homosexuality was addressed in the jubilant “It’s Alright.” Noting that the inspiration of “Get Out the Map” was present, Saliers said that “these songs are about real people.”

The duo displayed impressive instrumental dexterity as they employed various combinations of acoustic and electric guitars and mandolins. Their vocal interplay was similarly stunning throughout the 100-minute outing.

Overcoming indifference was a constant struggle for the duo. The roar of the crowd overwhelmed the tender ballad “Share the Moon.” Most people elected to continue their discussions after they were invited to sing along with “Hammer and a Nail.” Ray had better luck when she initiated synchronized clapping as Saliers took an animated guitar solo during “Chickenman.”

The six members of the New York based opening act Great Caesar joined the Indigo Girls for “Closer to Fine.” Great Caesar’s buoyant chamber-folk differs little from the dozens of groups plying similar sounds. The Indigo Girls don’t have that problem. Even buried beneath boorish chitchat, the heartening music of singular folk duo is unmistakable.