It's always interesting when you can see a show or an act more than once in a run; it gives a much clearer picture of what is really good, or not, about the show.
I've seen Ani three times before and every time has been in a totally different configuration, once with a full electric band, once with just a bass player, last year with a nice acoustic group and this time again with the excellent bass player (local boy Todd Sickafoose) & a woman drummer.
For the show at the Warfield I was lucky enough to have what I consider to be the best seat in the Bay Area for a concert - front row balconey seat 102 (dead center next to the mixer on the isle). The sites and sounds from that seat are amazing and will make any show better, and this one was no exception.
For me the main thing about Ani, beyond her great songs, her great guitar playing and her great voice is her total command of the stage and how completely at ease & in control she is at all times. It really is fun to watch someone who is TOTALLY in control, even when she flubs. She has a HUGE catalog of songs and she does mix her shows up but when she goofed and started a song with the 3rd verse she just add-libbed and started a great little off-the cuff rap that fit right in with the song, never missing a note or stopping. It was great.
And ultimately that is the word that always comes to my mind with Ani DiFranco: great. She is a folk singer in a style that I do not usually find very appealing, but she is just so DAMN GOOD that she wins me over every time. For me it's always more about the greatness than the style, and Ani is a heavyweight for sure.
Her guitar playing is powerful & dynamic and her voice can do just about anything she wants it to, her songs are groovy with strong lyrics and she is just so damn appealing on stage!
Her fans are TOTALLY into her and while the crowds at her shows are predominately female there are more than a few men there as well. I had the thought at one point that this may be the only artist that EVERYONE in the audience wants to have sex with! There is a definite energy in the room when Ani DiFranco is performing.
The show last night in Santa Cruz was not as good, partly because the Civic, despite the MANY amazing shows I've seen there over the years, is not a good venue for this type of show. It's a generic old civic hall that is too big and bland for an intimate show. It was also obvious that Ani was VERY tired, you could see her laboring to go from one song to the next. She puts EVERYTHING into her performance, as I've said she is a very powerful performer and on this night it was easy for me to see that this was definitely work.
She tours EVERY year and she just had a baby that is touring with her and she made some comments about how that is taxing her, so last night just didn't quite blow me away like all the other times; nothing was bad but she was just not as "free & easy" last night. But to her credit as a pro she finished really strong and THREW herself into her last 3 songs, which were amazing and again reminded me of why I love her so much.
Ani DiFranco is an ARTIST, not a pop/rock star and I highly recommend checking her out any chance you get, especially if it's in a smaller venue. Even if you're not into the Lilith Fair, cuumbaya style chick folk singers, her sincerity, her incredible talent and her totally charming stage presence will win you over.
Nice review! I love live Ani. Haven't seen her in a long time. Does she still play an Alvarez?
>>>Does she still play an Alvarez<<<
Is that a guitar? She had about 6 different ones. They were all guitars; that's all I can say about that!
Thanks for the great review, Lance.
While Ani can occasionally grate on me sometimes, what Lance said on Ani as an artist and performer. Her energy and stage presence is always both positive and confident, and I've always enjoyed her wordplay and use of metaphors in her lyrics.
My only beef with Ani lately is a portion of her fans, who were a pathetic drunken lot at last year's Folk Fest. I had one drunk girl lean on my shoulder (after she invaded my group's tarp area and was not welcomed!), and I politely asked her to stop it. She leaned further and I had to shrug her off. She then staggered near a couple 20 feet to my right, and whose two-year old son had been lying on the ground, sleeping. She almost stepped on that boy's head, and was careless. I don't care about "well, she was drunk": Not being able to hold your liquor is an unacceptible excuse.
The sad part is that there were many like her around, and it got to the point that many who were at the Fest all weekend -- myself included -- made some remarks regarding those fans at Planet Bluegrass; to the point Ani herself heard about some of those incidents and was saddened as a result.
BTW, Lance, I used to see Ani when she started playing clubs in the upstate NY area in the early 90s. I also greatly respect her because she built her label and her living completely on her own, and in her own uncompromising terms.
Anyone who wrote as brilliant a tune as 32 Flavours is all right in my book. She is also beautiful!