WEB EXCLUSIVE: Ani getting older, rocks out anyway

Bridget Rubenking

Ani DiFranco Concert Review

When: Wednesday, March 2

Where: Lakewood Civic Auditorium

Stater Rating (out of four): ****

No one on Earth has ever aged as beautifully as Ani DiFranco.

Rock stars are too busy becoming more and more unintelligible (read Bob Dylan) or sadly no longer able to reach those high notes (read Joni Mitchell, every other female folk singer) or at least uglier or fatter (read everyone from the ’70’s). DiFranco put on a great set at the last show of her American tour for Knuckle Down, her latest release, at Lakewood Civic Auditorium Wednesday night.

DiFranco has released about 20 CDs of her own, as well as other artists’ on the label she created, Righteous Babe.

For the first time in several years I noticed Ani and her audience aging. There were simply more adults there, and less middle school girls with their new oversized Ani T-shirts, glittery black nails, Converse All-Stars and bad make-up. DiFranco’s older songs garnered loud responses, but her most recently released songs got some heads nodding to the music as well.

She started her set with the title track from Knuckle Down, and characteristically picked the guitar strings really hard and sang at times with a lower, strong voice before she unpredictably sang higher and lighter.

“32 Flavors” is probably the song most people have heard by DiFranco, or at least that awful cover. It’s not in my top 10 Ani songs. That being said, when she returned for a one-song encore with opening act Andrew Bird on violin, it was the prettiest sound of the night. It also included the most quotable lyric of the night, “I never tried to give my life meaning, but deep meaning, yo.”

Seeing DiFranco pound her right foot on the floor, move around the stage a little and take breaks from playing guitar to lean back and hit the body of her guitar is the second best part of seeing her perform live. The best part is her from-the-gut laugh.

Midway through the set, DiFranco began to talk about missing her cat. “Now I have a cat. I have to give it a shot every three days,” she said with that laugh, “Fuck.”

Ani performed the old spoken word favorite “I.Q.,” as well as a new poem she was working on about women owning their bodies being a very fundamental thing in context of the right to choose. Her poems are read with the same off-beat pacing and voice inflection as her songs, and usually prove to be solid words to live by.

DiFranco played different acoustic guitars all night with an acoustic bass player. Opening act Andrew Bird performed a few songs with her as well.

During his opening set, Bird sometimes played the violin, at other times he plucked it, and other times he played the guitar. He sang, clearly, with very Keane/Travis-sounding vocals, although sometimes he seemed to get tired of singing and did this talking thing like Cake. Oh, and he whistled. Constantly.

At first I thought it was some kind of an effect, but it wasn’t. The whistling would have made sense on one song maybe, or more appropriately on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Although, he sure was the best damn whistler I ever saw.

DiFranco performed “Studying Stones,” a stand out from her Knuckle Down CD, with Bird, and both the music and singing sounded great.

It was awesome to see DiFranco rock again. After last seeing her on the Revelling/Reckoning tour, I wanted to hear her guitar being abused by violent picks, and I wanted to hear her sing loud, from the bottom of her little belly. And she did just that, most notably on “Shameless,” off of Dilate, her most beautiful song.

Contact assistant news editor Bridget Rubenking at [email protected].