One Woman Army

Ani DiFranco photo by Danny Clinch

Ani DiFranco is a self proclaimed folk monger. In my opinion, she is the greatest folk singer since Bob Dylan himself. Her words are excellently witty and her hands can call out great sounds from a guitar. As beautifully as Ani writes her songs, her message transcends the music, as evidenced by sign-linguists translating for deaf members of the crowd. The message came through clear Sunday, February 27, as this show featured the most attentive audience I've yet seen.

Prior to Ani taking the stage, fellow Righteous Babe Records recording artist Andrew Bird had a chance to introduce us to his mellow style. His music is well orchestrated, with a late-Beatles like overtone. Andrew has the look of a focused musician in his grey suit and green sweater. He used a loop pedal to overlay the pizzicato and bowed rhythms set forth by his violin with electric chords from his guitar. Bird also whistled like a bird in diatonic harmony with his xylophone. Andrew Bird produces a great brand of laid-back mellow music; it's the perfect music to throw on at bed time for a great night's sleep, it may even cure insomnia.

In between Andrew's set and Ani's, we were greeted by a glowing orange hand that grasped the tapestries on stage. Ani took to the stage and played her music while dancing about. The crispness of her chords and the inflection of her words make for crystal clear music. Her clever lyrics make you think while her music makes you feel.

Ani was accompanied on stage by the long haired, plaid-wearing Todd, playing the upright bass. Through out the show, Ani and Todd would look into each other's eyes as they jammed out; there is a very deep and balanced musical relationship that exists between these two. After introducing Todd any went on a torrent about coffee and played the part of a jittery caffeine freak for a moment. Quite appropriately, she went on to play a song about coffee.

Ani recently released Knuckledown, her 17th studio album over the last 15 years. With a record like that, you get the feeling that Ani is one of the hardest working and most devoted musicians today. Ani played several songs from Knuckledown, including Sunday Morning, during which Todd and her jammed out real well.

Moving back to her classics, Ani played Back, Back, Back from her album To the Teeth. This version was very upbeat and was more dynamic than the recording found on the album.

Ready for Business photo by Danny Clinch

As Ani was handed a ukulele, a fan shouted "What do you see?" Ani's response: "Beauty, Beauty." This instant gave me a feel for how much Ani loves her admiring fans. With her ukulele Ani proceeded to play a beautiful rendition of Untouchable Face. In this song, the power of Ani's voice to convey emotions is fully apparent as you feel what she wants you to feel.

"Who can you plagiarize if not yourself?" That's what Ani asked before playing Names and Dates and Times, a song from her fourth album back in 1994, that she resurrected for this show. Todd added a rhythmic element to this song by drumming on his bass. After Names and Dates, Ani introduced us to Studying Stones, which can be found on her new album. The lyrics of this song seem to be about being a solid as a stone and not letting your environment change you.

Andrew Bird came back on stage and played violin in Studying Stones. He remained as Ani moved on to Fuel, a song off of "Little Plastic Castles." Andrew's violin adds a third piece to Ani's guitar and Todd's bass to create an amazingly dynamic trio. Ani got ahead of herself on some of her lyrics in Fuel, but she adlibbed masterfully, getting a joyous laugh out of the crowd.

At the end of Ani's set, the logo of her personal record company, Righteous Babe Records, appeared on the tapestries behind her and Ani tapped her heart conveying the affection she had for her audience. After she left the stage you could feel the love that they returned. Ani came back to the stage to play an encore of Evolve and Overlap, the second performed with Andrew on stage again.

Ani's music is very powerful, and her concert was too. It's the type of musical experience that stays with you for a while and inspires you to put your message to words and your feelings to music.

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