Tour Tales

Ani DiFranco Acoustic: Nostalgia, Wisdom, Magic

Ani DiFranco Acoustic: Nostalgia, Wisdom, Magic

The heat and estrogen hung like a web in a room filled with hardcore females. The kind of chicks, that after a few beers, you’d better not mess with. The doors at Culture Room opened at 8 p.m. sharp on Saturday, October 20, and the protective clan blanketing the floor held its ground, literally, without budging. Toting my camera above my head, I booked it to the front of the venue, knowing the lady of the night would begin her show at any minute. It was 10 p.m., and I squeezed in front of a dready couple that didn’t seem all to eager to scoot, and next to a fiery redhead named Vicki, who stood with a simple smile.

The heat and estrogen hung like a web in a room filled with hardcore females. The kind of chicks, that after a few beers, you’d better not mess with. The doors at Culture Room opened at 8 p.m. sharp on Saturday, October 20, and the protective clan blanketing the floor held its ground, literally, without budging. Toting my camera above my head, I booked it to the front of the venue, knowing the lady of the night would begin her show at any minute. It was 10 p.m., and I squeezed in front of a dready couple that didn’t seem all to eager to scoot, and next to a fiery redhead named Vicki, who stood with a simple smile.

The stage was black. Low-lights projected the shadow of a sole microphone. It was at that moment it became apparent the songstress would be a party of one. Just her and her guitar. Just like the olden days. As Ani DiFranco floated on the stage, the roar of a thousand wooed women (or so it felt) welcomed the little folk singer with catcalls, open arms and both hands. Dressed in a navy blue button down, short-sleeved T-shirt, a pair of milk chocolate-hued pinstriped pants and her guitar, she was carefree undemanding, uncomplicated.

As the first chords of “Anticipate” filled the room, familiarity and comfort washed over the sea. Feedback screeched, and DiFranco commented on weirdness of the Culture Room, but that’s what was so special about it. DiFranco, her guitar and the fans at her feet. No fancy theatres, mega venues, just minimalism – and it was appreciated. Though she fussed a bit about the sound, once she melted into her zone, the music came raw, yet unscathed. The “Anticipate” opener drew flashbacks of times when DiFranco used to talk about selling CDs out of the trunk of her car. But, that bald-headed babe grew into a bob-donning mother, and that mom’s still got that ‘it’ factor that drew the flock more than 20 years ago.

“Angry Anymore,” off 1999’s Up Up Up… was laced with humbleness, as the singer crooned forgiveness to her father, interjecting a “thanks, mom” as she strummed, and the crowd harmonized along with her. A Pioneering “Napolean” came next, the first track of the night from the raucous Dilate. The audience shushed and hushed, glued to their master, and when she whined, “Everyone/ Is a fucking Napolean,” the chorus chimed in together, as the song soared and towered as it climaxed. DiFranco stepped away from her microphone, and a tiny goddess utilized her entire stage space during Reprieve’s “78% H2O,” wailing her notes and hurling her body about with that signature pout on her face. She was pure poetry. “Dilate” came next, and fierce faces all around complemented the intensity from DiFranco’s bitter cry, and the outstretched, low riffs echoed from the hollow hole inside her guitar. “Let those fingers bleed,” yelled one diehard, and we all felt privileged to receive the naked gift of song placed before us.

Some babbly banter and signature throaty giggles brought everyone back to reality, as DiFranco declared, “Learn new old stuff. I like you. Meanwhile, here’s some new stuff.” Connected to her onlookers, admirers grinned warmly in receipt. “And now, a song from the older, wiser me.” Her repartee was cheerful and lighthearted, countering the might behind the music. “Promiscuity” filled the air, as DiFranco’s pondering lyrics danced on the tip of her tongue, witty and twisting. “Nature always gets her way,” she sang bouncily as she rhythmically brushed her strings.

“I’m so glad she exists,” Vicki said to me, and I agreed. We were deep into it at that point, and the air was thick and steamy. “This song reminds me of Florida,” DiFranco commented before “Splinter.” She crooned about connections and childbirth and balance, balance, balance. And then, she apologized for the deliberate sauna, “It’s my fault it’s hot in here, I gotta keep the AC down.” But, the stickiness birthed some strange form of togetherness.

Then, more chatter from DiFranco. “Just a little super glue emergency,” she shared, as she fixed her capped nails. “A girl is not complete without her manicure,” she joked. “Can’t sit on my porch and smoke a J,” she sang on the green-themed, Americana-clothed “J,” from newest release, ¿Which Side Are You On?

And, it was back to the classics, another round of old favorites for the longtime enthusiasts. Self-actualized “As Is” was one of those timeless numbers, as plucks of high notes were the glaze to the truthful serenade. “’Cause, when I look around/ I think this, this is good enough/ And, I try to laugh/ At whatever life brings,” was a verse long engraved in her being, and mine. 

It seemed like the perfect time to talk about her new pregnancy, sandwiched between two Little Plastic Castle songs – an album known for its growth. The devotees whistled and applauded, and as DiFranco struck the first notes to the sexual, taboo ballad, “Two Little Girls,” her guitar rested on her womb, vibrating sweet music into the life she was harvesting. “Joyful Girl” brought me back to a time when DiFranco’s music was a tool of self-assurance. It was a security blanket in my teens, a reflective, melancholy reprise looking back to a more timid time, reminding us all how far we’d come. “Swan Dive” rounded out the LPC tributes, and each girl peered at DiFranco with wide eyes as she sang with desperation her battle cry, and her axe groaned with power, bleeding and blipping through her howl.

It was one more trip back to DiFranco’s walk of wisdom on “If Yr Not,” through which she shared, “If you’re not getting happier as you get older/ Then, you’re fuckin’ up.” And, it was like listening to a big sister sharing the easiest, wisest words.

“Untouchable Face,” A.K.A. the anthem for all girls who ever turned into Ani Addicts, was a tender touch to wind down the night. Her impromptu croons threw off the choir of sing-alongs, as the effortless delivery rolled off her tongue and through her fingertips. As “Shameless” went into its spiral of frenzy, so did the girl behind me, as if she was abducted by the personal gesture. Womankind embraced womankind, audaciously. DiFranco reverberated her axe by the amp, rocking out, and concluding on a high note.

Back for an anticipated single encore, it was “Both Hands,” that hooked arms around waists, as barks of the seductive ode made their way back to their maker, as she flicked those saccharine-coated chords, wafting vulnerability and innocence, leaking magic throughout the room. “32 Flavors” closed out the show, and it was bittersweet to sing in sync for one last time. “Squint your eyes and look closer…,” DiFanco pleaded. We did. And, it was as if the mass collectively melded with her very special soul.

Photos and video by Tracy Block / Melodysiac © 2012

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victor

October 22nd, 2012

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