checkmate: indigo girls at the roxy

by Zach Kincaid
Checkmate. It’s a move that leaves you with no options. You loose the game. In theology, systematizers attempt to move into gray areas and pin them down. “It’s black or white and that’s that.” Loosy-goosed theologians think everything is made of wind, and when something doesn’t blow away they want to label it “intolerant.” Ah. There’s Chesterton at the door. “The word ‘heresy’ not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word ‘orthodoxy’ not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong.”

As true Christianity sinks deeper underground and popular religion pays their bills by way of rock show homilies and righteous indignation of the “other,” the dinner table at Matthew’s house is often neglected at best and cornered in with checkmate moves that leaves grace dangling by threads.

We stood in line at the Roxy on Monday night, July 30, thrilled to see the Indigo Girls in a small, sold out venue for the taping of an upcoming DVD. The line slithered down the neighboring alley and opened into the Roxy’s back parking lot. It was a rag-tag group of gays and lesbians, straights and narrows, hipped and hyped, pierced and prodded.

Once inside, the show started on a stripped down stage, where the music served for the main attraction. The Indigo Girls fell into the spell of an intimate hometown room, a crowd cheering and crooning as if alone in their cars.

Two guitars and signature harmony took the lead the way it ought to at an Indigo Girls show. Minus a few older tunes like “World Falls” and “The Wood Song,” the first dozen songs showcased Despite Our Differences,” their latest release. The predictable all changed when “Tried to be True” brought out Brandi Carlile and band as backup. What began as expected turned a corner to find Amy Rae’s brother and kids singing “This little light of mine” to end the provocative tune “Let it Ring” –

Let it ring to Jesus 'cause he sure'd be proud of you
You made fear an institution and it got the best of you
Let it ring in the name of the one that set you free
Let it ring
As I wander through this valley
In the shadow of my doubting
I will not be discounted
So let it ring
You can cite the need for wars
Call us infidels or whores
Either way we'll be your neighbor
So let it ring

“Closer to Fine” had Tina Meade of three5human and Brandi Carlile sharing the vocals, which brought a twist to the most successful Indigo Girls song to date. “Kid Fears” took a similar queue, nestled between a shared stage with Amy and Emily supporting a Carlilie song before it and a three5human tune afterwards. And so too, a full band stroll to “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Lastly and rightly, “Galileo” and “Land of Canaan” ended the night three hours after it began.

Thoughtful music steers theology into a quiet corner and asks it to listen awhile. As flat judgments find texture in the wiles of Main Street, the pillars where sanctification was thought to reside get cut down to gutter level. Here, Matthew 9 and I Corinthians 13 have no padded rooms where “Amazing Grace” can be belted out without the belches that break us back to creature status.

Checkmate. The difficult mandate of Christianity is not tolerance alone. That’s easy enough in today’s pancaked world. Jesus adds love to the dance, and love must be felt, not simply reasoned out. And U2’s right – love is blindness. It’s also messy. Anyone who reads the Bible realizes that righteousness blows in the wind and that nothing lasts save the grace of God. As to the question of morality, we have a limited space to roam. Scripture, Church, and the Trinity teach us about boundaries and setting right behaviors so to aid our souls in finding the inn at the world’s end. May we each pray that our pilgrimages – though pointing down crooked lines – might find the reckless love of God. We’re all in checkmate. Let it ring. This one from “Tether” –

Cause we may flicker and fade,
But we never will be through with this
I see this world battered but not broken
There's a fallow heart, it's waiting on a sowing hand
You can grow what you want, But one day it's gonna rise up
So plant what you need to make a better stand
And we'll bring it together
And we'll call from the mountain to the valley below.
And we'll make it better
Let go of the hawk, we let go of the dove.
I sing to you, all you true believers
With the strength to see this and not be still.
I'm telling you now, find the hope that feeds you,
Don't let 'em bleed you of your will.

Set List
Pendulum swinger
Little Perennials
Shame On You
Hope Alone (w/ Brandi Carlile)
World Falls (w/ Brandi Carlile)
Lay My Head Down
Three County Highway
The Wood Song
Money Made You Mean
Fill It Up Again
Dairy Queen
Last Tears (w/ Brandi Carlile)
Tried to Be True (w/ Brandi Carlile band)
Rock and Roll Heaven's Gate (w/ Brandi Carlile band)
Let It Ring (Amy solo w/ Amy's brother and nieces and nephews)
Closer to Fine (w/ Trina Meade and Brandi Carlile)
Cannonball (Brandi Carlile w/ Indigo Girls)
Kid Fears (w/ Trina Meade)
Genocidal Youth (three5human w/ Indigo Girls)
Trouble (w/ three5human)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (w/ three5human)
Rock and Roll Heaven's Gate (w/ three5human)
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright (w/ Brandi Carlile)
Midnight Train to Georgia (w/ three5human)

(encore #1)
Tether (w/ three5human
Galileo (w/ Brandi Carlile)

(encore #2)
Land of Canaan

(August 2007)