The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Indigo Girls grace the stage at Englert Theater 

Rock-folk duo known as the Indigo Girls took the stage in Iowa City Wednesday night to tour songs from their most recent album, “Look Long,” just weeks before the release of their upcoming documentary, “Indigo Girls: It’s Only Life After All.”
Ethan McLaughlin
The Indigo Girls perform at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

Indigo Girls, the folk-rock duo consisting of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, took the stage at the Englert Theater Wednesday night for the first of two sold-out shows this week. 

The pair, who have been performing together since high school, have nearly 900,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, 16 studio albums, and are the subject of countless pop culture references. Their most recent creative endeavor is a documentary, “Indigo Girls: It’s Only Life After All,” which will be released on streaming services early next month. 

This was the Indigo Girls’ second visit to the Englert; their first time was in 2016 during their “One Lost Day” album tour. 

“Bringing Indigo Girls back to the Englert was a no-brainer for us,” Ella Kang, the senior marketing manager of the Englert Theater, said. “We’re really into singer-songwriters at the Englert, and Indigo Girls are so revered and so well respected in that sphere.” 

The band’s Englert performance was originally scheduled for November 2023 but was rescheduled for Thursday due to an unforeseen illness affecting the band. Luckily for fans, however, in addition to rescheduling, the band added an extra date, Wednesday, to their tour itinerary, allowing Iowa City fans an additional chance to see them in action. 

The night kicked off with opener Lucy Wainwright Roche, who warmed up the crowd of over 700 people. Roche’s set featured sweet, lilting vocals, an acoustic guitar, and endearingly awkward crowd work about motherhood, her dog who hates music, and the reason why she doesn’t get asked to play at weddings. 

Rowdy laughter turned into thunderous applause, however, as Saliers and Ray stepped on stage to begin their set. The duo was joined by Lyris Hung on violin, and Roche as backup vocals. The group was met with raucous cheers from the audience as they hammered the first chords of Indigo Girls’ 2004 track “Fill It Up.”

The band made sure that the love they felt from their Iowa City fans did not go unreciprocated. 

Fans cheer as the Indigo Girls take the stage at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Ethan McLaughlin)

Saliers, who let the crowd know she’s been a college women’s basketball fan since childhood, stepped on stage in a Caitlin Clark basketball jersey, opening her arms and gesturing for applause as she pointed to the name on the back.  

“Congratulations to you guys. It’s amazing to see people waking up and seeing [women’s basketball] in a whole new light,” she said humorously, “Although I can only wear the shirt once because it’s autographed, so I can’t wash it.” 

Neither Saliers or Ray spent much time interacting with the audience, nor did they introduce a single song on their set list. Instead, they let their craftsmanship and iconic body of work speak for themselves, transporting their audience through a harmonious collision of melodies and memories.

“[These songs] were my prom,” concert attendee Kris Banwart exclaimed. “[My husband and I] played Indigo Girls at our wedding; I had Indigo Girls playing when I gave birth to my kids; when my husband passed away last year, we played Indigo Girls at his funeral. These songs are my entire life in memories.”  

While the crowd at the Englert clapped and whistled for old and new songs alike, it was undeniable that the nostalgia held an allure for most of the audience.   

The duo’s final song before leaving the stage — though they would return shortly for an encore — was their 1989 hit “Closer to Fine,” the song recently featured in Greta Gerwig’s record-breaking film, “Barbie,” garnering media exposure for the song and propelling the already notorious band even further into the mainstream attention of younger generations.

For the first time that night, everyone was out of their seats. The energy shift in the room was palpable and the kaleidoscope of generations in attendance found themselves momentarily woven together, doused in purple light from the stage, singing along to the iconic track.  

Banwart laughed at the band’s new attention. “My son tried to introduce me to them the other day. I had to tell him, ‘I already have three T-shirts; I first got their cassette in 1987!’”  

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