The Vic Theater is small, but tonight its house was packed. Ani Difranco was playing and as I look across the dimly lit interior, I see mostly women, and a few men, all eagerly awaiting the beginning of the show.
The first band, a trio of a male acoustic guitarist/vocalist, a female cellist/vocalist and a female auxiliary percussionist/vocalist, were damn fine singers with a wonderful balance of instrumentation. When they were done, they were left with a quite successful standing ovation, and applause rang through the concert hall. It was much deserved!
At intermission, as people scuttled about, hoping for a quick cigarette or maybe a chance to create more room for our further liquidation, I couldn’t help but think back to the time I had the fortune of watching Ani perform. At that show, it was just her and a guitar. It was mesmerizing then and I could only suspect that it would be the same here tonight.
For the techies: her set up looked simple, a guitar and a tuner. (I heard some wah later.) But for now the show is beginning. Ani has a drummer and an upright bass for her trio.
The first song, “Which Side,” was political with a second line drum feel as she chanted, “Whose side are you on?” Ani has always had a feminist outlook and it was backed up within this song. It’s quite funky and rightfully so, as the drummer wore a t-shirt saying “Funky Butt.”
The second song, “Splinter,” started with a beautiful interplay between Ani’s guitar and the counterpoint of the upright bass, as she chanted “TV is full of splinters, you could always go outside.”
The third song, “Fuel,” brought the mood back to her early style. It has a dark and slinky way about it, and Ani’s signature fast-prose lyrics has the crowd singing along.
Her fourth song, “78% H20,” had country flair, and the dynamic is wonderful between her guitar and the drums. The next song, “Promiscuity,” was equally as dynamic and grooved towards the funk-spreading lyrics such as, “Nature always gets her way,” and combined with her sixth song, ”J,” she brought us back into the slinky, dark-ish groove-fest that embraces Ani Difranco. I also noticed at this time that her fans absolutely identify with her every word. It was a true testament to fan loyalty.
The seventh song, “Woe Be Gone,” began with a comment from Ani: “Who likes their job?” - and went straight into an involving, engaging song. Unfortunately, sometimes her lyrics are hard to understand; to her benefit, it was because she was singing her heart out!
There are a few cover songs on her set list tonight, and Bill Withers’ “Who Is She” got the first chance to be put across Ani’s guitar strings, as she sings out, “Who is she and what is she to you?”
The ninth song, “The Whole Night,” seems to be an oldie with lyrics “If I did not have a boyfriend,” and the tenth song, “Genie,” is a new song with a touch of some jam band /Indian flare to it. Once again it had a very nice balance. Seems to be a theme!
Her next song, “Joyful Girl,” is one of my favorites. With a groovy kind of shuffle-feel, she chants, “I do it ’cause I want to.”
“Albacore” is a beautiful song about what she calls “getting hitched.” This one once again engages the bow of the bass beautifully.
At this time her band made an exit and she takes the spotlight. She played a song, “Swan Dive,” and the crowd loved every minute of it. She follows up with her second cover of the night “Deportee”, a Woody Guthrie song.
The band came back on stage and gets to work on a rather up-beat song, “Mariachi,” but with the next tune, it was with the superb rhythmic juxtaposition, and back to the dirty raunchy Ani we knew from earlier. “If You’re Not” brings lyrics such as “If you’re not happier as you’re getting older, then you’re fucking it up.” This rang true throughout by the audience’s perspective.
Her seemingly last song, “Shameless,” had the crowd rocking out into applause, and they chanted for “one more song, one more song.” Ani returns with a double song encore of “Free Door” and “32 Flavors” that reminds her fans why Ani DiFranco will stay in the hearts of her fans forever!
Review by: Joe Connors
Photos by: Thomas Mayer