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Indigo Girls: Better than ever after 25 years
by Charlsie Dewey

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With 14 studio albums under their belt, the latest being 2011's Beauty Queen Sister, and a career spanning more than 25 years, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls) continue to bring the high energy and authenticity they have always been known for to the stage.

Ray suggested that anyone who hasn't been to an Indigo Girls concert in a few years ought to come see them on this tour, because she said they are still at it, delivering the same quality performances they gained attention for in the beginning. The only difference is they have many more songs to choose from.

"We definitely rotate different songs in and out of the set," Ray said. "We change the set list every night, but certain ones we always do. We always do "Share the Moon," that song always gets a good response. That's one that seems to be a favorite.

"I guess it's the energy, and the set list is kind of a balance between the things that we want to play and the things that we know the audience wants to hear. We don't play anything we don't feel like playing."

Ray said her personal favorites really depend on the musicians her and Saliers are playing with. On this tour, The Shadowboxers are opening the show as well as joining Indigo Girls on stage as their backing band. The band sang on two songs on Beauty Queen Sister.

"They're from Atlanta and we met them a while back and just kind of morphed into this," Ray said. "It's really great to play a show with a backing band. They have three great harmony singers, so we have all the harmonies. We can do electric songs if we want to and songs that have bigger background vocals.

"When they play with us they play some of the parts that are on the records, and they sing a lot of the harmonies we wrote. As players they have a really wide range, from a straight up rock band to a soul kind of almost R&B kind of flavor. Stevie Wonder kind of mixed with REM, maybe Dylan. They have three song writers so there are a lot of different styles going on in their band, which is one of the reasons we thought they could play with us really well, because they can kind of tap into anything. It gives us the chance to have keyboard and guitar parts that are extra and lots of vocals, but it's us, they are sort of contributing to it."

Ray is looking forward to performing the rock songs with the backing band, specifically mentioning "Go" and "Tether" as favorites on this tour.

Ray said that after so many years of touring it is the collaborative aspect that she still finds the most exciting about touring. It brings a new experience to the music and the performance, she added.

Indigo Girls have had a longevity that most bands don't get. Ray attributes this to a number of factors, including their touring schedule, the people they've surrounded themselves with and their creative structure and process.

"There are a lot of things that go into it on the business side that kind of give you more longevity. For us, I think it's having a team of people that we work with that are like a family, that we've been with since the beginning, since we started," Ray said. "Since we had to get a manager and a booking agent, which I guess we were around 23, before that we did everything ourselves, those have been the same people the whole time. That really helps.

"We write separately so we give each other a lot of creative space and that is a really good thing. We don't tour for more than a few weeks at a time. We go for three weeks and then we come home for a week so it gives us that grounded kind of thing and keeps us from driving each other crazy. I think along the way we've taken care to create space and maintain integrity. The other thing is always trying to evolve musically and have new experiences and fresh experiences, and make new records and keep writing and keep the writing process going. Not just rest on your laurels, because you totally can't do that, and who would want to. It's kind of boring to not constantly be reinventing yourself. We have a certain sense of how we should always evolve and that includes when systems change and time changes and the way records are put out there. When that stuff changes you try to adjust to that and look at it as a fresh experience."

Ray also said that the fans have made a huge difference. Indigo Girls have gained a large group of diehard fans who have remained loyal over the years, passing on their music to siblings, friends, significant others and their children.

When she is touring, Ray is also often writing music. She said that she is writing about eight months out of the year, usually five days a week and that includes when they are on the road.

Her message to those attending the Aurora show is that she hopes everyone has a really great time and enjoys the concert.

The show is on Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. Tickets are $45-$55; for tickets and information, visit .

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