say your piece
 
ISSUE NO.154 23 OCT. 2003
 
 
theBeat
Attack of the Five-Foot Woman
By Sheena McFarland
Chronicle Editor in Chief
 
 
Ani Difranco's Salt Lake City appearance showcased a return to her original solo roots and featured rarely performed fan favorites.
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photo: Sarah Morton

ith biceps flexing, Ani Difranco dominated the stage while setting an intimate mood Saturday night with her acoustic guitar.

The last time I saw Difranco in Utah, she played at the “E” Center. She shunned the audience and ended the show early. As an avid fan, I was so devastated that it took me six months to spin one of her discs again.

But all was healed after her performance at the U’s Huntsman Center. Difranco made the audience feel loved by talking and joking with us, and then actually said that she loved each and every one of us near the end.

Due to a delay in the show, she played songs she said she doesn’t usually play, which only added to the intimate atmosphere.

She started the evening on a jovial note, commenting on how she was a bit winded after her opening song.

“What is this? Are we just high up here or am I just getting old? Don’t answer,” she said.

Difranco apologized for the late start, explaining that the truck with all of the setup equipment had broken down outside of Denver. The truck usually arrives at about 8 a.m., but it didn’t arrive until 5 p.m. that night.

Because of the wait, she decided to play some rarely performed fan favorites.

Difranco has gotten back to what made her one of the most beloved and worshipped female solo artists in her prolific career. She has produced 20 albums since 1990’s Not So Soft, recorded when she was 19. By that time, she had written more than 100 songs.

One of the many reasons her cult following loves her is that she has always stayed independent, no matter how scarce the money got, and eventually created her own label, Righteous Babe, which now supports independent artists.

Many fans accused her of becoming too “poppy” and not angry enough with some of her albums that came out in the mid-1990s, but now her “I’m-a-young- woman-having-to-fight-in-a- man’s-world” anger has changed to political anger. The shift has moved her music from raucous guitar work to deeply moving, passionate lyrics with softer guitar.

The other setback to the fans of the bisexual singer was her marriage to a man. Many of her lesbian followers labeled her a traitor and moved on.

But she’s now back to the more comfortable setting that made fans fall in love with the indie-folk rocker in the first place.

That she was playing seldom-performed material became apparent only when she had to re-tune a guitar mid-song. Not having a band never hindered her performance.

“Here’s a song a girl should never play without her band,” she said, laughing, before ripping into “Little Plastic Castle.” Regardless of the disclaimer, the audience screamed with joy at hearing the song live.

Difranco interacted and talked to the audience after nearly every song.

She chatted about her day’s wanderings, inevitably ending up at the Salt Lake City LDS Temple.

“I went to see that Tabernacle of yours—well maybe not yours, but I got the whole tour. A woman walked up to me and told me she was on a mission, and I told her, ‘So am I,’” she said.

While the atmosphere was intimate, the reverb of the Huntsman Center became annoying for both the audience and Difranco.

“When I was in that Tabernacle, they showed me what they called the ‘perfect acoustics’ of the place. They pulled out their spike and cookie plate and it was like clang, clang, clang, clang,” she told the audience, laughing. “Literal people just scare me. They were like, look, it’s the church of Jesus Christ, it says so right here.”

The jovial mood continued as she ended “Anticipate” by singing the line, “It’s not easy bein’ green.”

“Kermit the Frog is one of my biggest musical influences,” she said.

The tone became a bit more serious when she introduced “Subdivision.” She talked about the detriments of the creations of the suburbs, and how it has destroyed her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.

She ended the set with “Serpentine” from her new album Evolve.

“I’m going to leave with a bit of a dirge because I’m ruthless like that, “ she said.

During her encore, she gave a shout-out to Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, who attended one of her performances recently.

“The fact that he even showed up was cool,” she said. “I run into politicians at benefits and such, and they’re just always stumbling around. He’s the only politician I’ve met that doesn’t make my skin crawl.”
smcfarland@chronicle.utah.edu

 
     
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