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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday Music Club: Indigos and Havens

We went to see Richie Havens and Indigo Girls perform at the Santa Fe Opera recently, a show billed as the finale of the two-day World Peace Conference. Whatever you think about a peace conference being funded by the Department of Tourism and set in a state filled with major components of what used to be called the military-industrial complex, this show was top notch and well worth the trip up north. There's something to be said about peace music and/or acoustic music and/or harmonic vocals carrying an audience up to the higher ground and echoing away towards the bomb making machinery.

Amy and Emily led some warmly received sing alongs of their old stuff, and featured a lot of their newer material, like songs from their latest album "Despite Our Differences." The video above, submitted for a contest by a fan, is set to one of my favorite numbers from that release called "Pendulum Swinger."


Indigo Girls were at the top of their strumming and vocal forms and the crowd was dominated by folks who had clearly been fans in the beginning and ever since. It was like old home day for the hippie-dyke enchantment dwellers of yore -- grayer and more wrinkled than before, but still parading their stuff. In other words, we were among family. Hugs were abundant. I even saw a fair number of spiked hairdos and mullets. Time for a retro comeback? Not yet, not yet.

They made great use of the top-of-the-line opera house acoustics and audio system, with the sound as clear as a bell. They changed guitars (or electric mandolins or banjos) every song. I've seen them live so many times in so many eras and in so many states of mind that they're like a part of my life fabric, comforting and pulsating warmth and good will. My favorite was a pounding version of Amy's "Go Go Go," tracing the protest movements from the suffragette days onward. Emily did some high vocal explorations that chimed like a bell. Wow. Nothing like being among friends, musical or otherwise, as the cold winds blew in off the still snowy peaks of the Sangre de Cristos and the lightning crackled across the skies as if on cue, I swear.

Richie Havens was rousing, funny and spiritual all at the same time. His energy and high intensity rhythm guitar playing are still going strong, as is his voice. I'm pleased to report he now has teeth of some sort, a big improvement over his physical state when he opened the Woodstock Arts and Music Fair oh so many years ago. His beard is now long and white and the top of his pate shiny. His foot pounding is still some of the best in the music biz, and his thumb is still wider than the guitar neck.

He was accompanied by tasty licks from talented lead player Walter Parks and a woman sawing expertly on an electric cello, much like in the video above. Yes, he did "Freedom (Motherless Child)" and "Here Comes the Sun," but also a rather somber rendition of "Woodstock." He opened with a wary and moody version of "All Along the Watchtower" that set just the right tone for an America as dangerous as the one we're experiencing. In between he performed a bunch of his own songs and told some funny stories. He noted how it was rather silly to be spending billions to get into outer space when we were already riding a chunk of rock zooming through it. Richie Havens -- still high on life.


June 2, 2007 at 02:12 PM in Peace, Saturday Music Hall | Permalink


Since we don't have a state Department of Peace yet, where else would you put funding for an event like this, which draws people from all over the country?

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Jun 2, 2007 5:04:50 PM

Great review. I could almost hear it and smell it. :) I miss these types of concerts where you see old friends and acquaintances and enjoy the company of thoughts.
I'd never seen the video for Pendulum Swinger but now that I have, I like the song even more.
Thanks Barb.
I wish I could have gone...

Posted by: Natalie | Jun 2, 2007 8:31:45 PM

Natalie - Thanks for the kind words. I wish you could have gone too!

Michelle: I was referring to the controversies around the Peace Conference in Santa Fe. Many thought the money could have been used to support other kinds of activities and thought it was a fake peace conference. Others thought it was a good idea.

Posted by: barb | Jun 3, 2007 10:50:50 AM