Woodland Park Zoo
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Edmonds is best known as a cute coastal suburb fit for retirees, families, and Rick>"/>
Edmonds is best known as a cute coastal suburb fit for retirees, families, and Rick Steves' pot and tourism empire. It is not known as a cauldron of libidinous creativity.
Yet two years ago, when the Indigo Girls played the Edmonds Center for the Arts, the gorgeous theater--not typically frequented by national touring musicians of the Girls' stature--at times felt like the Beatles' fabled appearance on Ed Sullivan, only the screaming girls in the audience were attracted to women instead of men.
Cover girls they're not, but sexual tension has always been the secret sauce in the Indigo Girls' live sandwich. And their show last night at the Woodland Park Zoo was almost entirely devoid of it, which sapped the energy from a perfectly competent set from one of the greatest folk duos in American history, irrespective of gender and sexuality.
Much of this had to do with the composition of the Zoo's crowd, which is always chockablock with young families and kids. This and the 8:30 curfew which dictates that every headliner take the stage before 7 are great for these young families and kids, but not so great for the adoring adult fan who's grown up swooning at Emily Saliers' honey-dripped soprano or the rawer, butchier passion Amy Ray exudes onstage. And while it's hardly Wembley Stadium, the Zoo lacks the intimacy necessary to bottle such lightning.
The Indigo Girls' set balanced newer fare with more established hits like "Watershed," "Land of Canaan," "Get Out the Map," "Galileo," "Power of Two," and, of course, "Closer to Fine." This longtime fan would have preferred more of a bias toward the old, but the songs weren't the problem. The Girls have long been able to rely on certain politically charged lyrical crescendos--mostly concerning gay rights--to lift its crowd up at any given moment. At the Zoo, those crescendos were greeted by nothing more than polite applause--at song's end.
The tepid response is enough to make one wonder whether gay rights in America have progressed to a point where such militant rallying cries don't pack the punch they once did. It's a lot easier for a gay artist to write about being beaten up or called a faggot than civil unions. Not that homophobic atrocities don't occur anymore, but when the movement at large has progressed to the altar, has the lyrical ground gotten too soft to sow? If it has, the Indigo Girls can take umbrage in a killer back catalog that's dynamic enough to play to the changing landscape.