Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ani DiFranco Touches Down in Durham

Ani Difranco performed at
Carolina Theater in Durham, NC
on Sept. 27
Photo by Patti Perret
Ani DiFranco paid Durham, NC a visit this past Friday, and if the state could have collectively given her a high five- it would have. Pearl and the Beard opened, and in between their fresh, funky, and almost tribal songs, could not help but exclaim over “Ani DiFranco!” They were shocked they have been able to open for Ani DiFranco 14 times- but they were the only ones. Their intensely beautiful, borderline ethereal drum beats, and vocals were a spectacular pairing with the show to come. 

Carolina Theater’s Fletcher Hall, packed with enough girl power to ship us all off to the moon, hosted a high energy seated show. With more chewed nails, chair dances, and edge of seat spectators than a theater with blue velvet seats may be used to welcoming onto its stage. Fletcher Hall is full of golden scroll work, and deep red carpet, and Ani’s warm, subtle stage lights, and cozy carpets stage set-up practically glowed. As a disclaimer, this was “my show,” I have been listening to Ani, cranked up in my car, through headphones, and on CDs scratched to the point of skipping, since…forever. To call myself a “fan girl,” would imply that I was excited, and I was closer to short circuiting entirely than I would care to admit.  

That being said, I was a little anxious to see her live, I have been grooving to Ani through the years, and have followed her latest releases, but have relied on the high-angst classics. Or as Ani herself put it on Friday, the height of her “ugh” years, and for the “ugh” she threw her arm across her forehead. I was worried I wouldn’t get to jam to the songs I have spent years scream-singing in my car to, but  I was pleasantly surprised. I do not think it is easy to bridge such a dramatic shift in mood in lyrics and tone, and with such a diverse discography, it would be easy to rely heavily on the new. After all, Ani has been “suckling a five month old, for the past five months,” and as she also admitted “if there was any time to request one of her 486 songs- this was not the time.”

This, if anything, heightened the show. Catching an artist in a candid moment, in forgotten song lyrics, or laughing at the heckling requests, can be amazing. Ani did belt out “Napoleon,” and after heavy requests a truly amazing rendition of “Fire Door.” Ani then promised us that she “knew what we wanted,” and would cheekily move “back to the new stuff.” It was an extremely personal show, and as Ani swayed her hips to her new songs about how funky things got down in Louisiana, it was hard not to smile. The fact that Ani commented so heavily on the gap, and on the transformations she has made, reached a high point with “Promiscuity,” on her album “Which Side Are You On?” This was her song from her “old, wise self, to her young, horny, lioness self.”  

This attitude gave the entire show a beautiful undertone, her older material does have a distinct “who the fuck are you messing with,” tone. This is not to say that Ani has strayed from strong political statements, but the tone has gradually moved into “I know who the fuck you are messing with.” A different vibe, which could be described as calmer, albeit just as powerful. Ani is still blasting messages out into the world that girls and women everywhere need to hear, don’t hear, should hear more. She opened the show with “Whose Side Are You On?” and she was just getting started.  

If Ani had only played the guitar for two hours, it would have given you chills. Not to mention the Kazoo serenade by Terrance, on the drums, or the relaxed stage chemistry between performers. When the wit, the music, and the love fest did come to a close, Fletcher Hall practically thundered. When Ani reappeared, with “Gravel,” the entire crowd was standing, singing, absorbing. She left us with “Joyful Girl,” as a lullaby. I was anxious to see Ani live, to see such a feminist, badass, watch-out artist, and left loving her work as a whole even more deeply. Loving the transformation- and being happy that she was happy, that we were all happy, and that something so real can come out of investing so much of yourself in art. Ani DiFranco once belted out during her “ugh” days “I hope somewhere some woman hears my music, and it helps her through her pain.” So, to my girl Ani, you have helped, and are still helping. 

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