concert reviews

DiFranco, Acoustic but High-Powered
Ani DiFranco at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Tuesday 11 May 2004

After years of playing with a full rock band, Ani DiFranco returned to her beginnings as an acoustic folksinger on Tuesday night at the 9:30 club, where she was accompanied only by an upright bass and occasionally a second guitarist. Despite the reduced setup, DiFranco's sound and energy filled the sold-out club. She bounced all over the stage and struck her guitar with such force, it's amazing she didn't break a string all night.

Her 80-minute set featured a few cuts from her latest solo album, "Educated Guess," as well as some spoken-word poetry and a few older songs, like "Untouchable Face," which was a singalong favorite with its candid and somewhat vulgar lyrics. Although her songs jumped among topics of rejection, love, femininity and war, the set flowed smoothly.

She played a song about forgiveness entitled "Angry Anymore," which received loud applause and wild shouts of "I love you, Ani!" -- causing her to exclaim, "Do I have the best job in the world or what!"

DiFranco shared with the audience her experiences at the March for Women's Lives last month, where she carried a homemade sign amid the hordes of fellow protesters. She then launched into her song "Animal," whose impassioned lyrics ("There's this brutal imperial power / That my passport says I represent / But it will never represent where my heart lives") received the loudest cheers of the night.

After the song, DiFranco explained that her activism has a positive spirit, focused more on working for the causes she believes in than on criticizing the current regime, because eventually, she said, "they'll catch on." After so many years of delivering the same message, DiFranco's politics and music might seem predictable, but her ability to get power and energy out of a few simple ideas remains impressive.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 13 May 2004
.: Selected discography: Educated Guess (Ani DiFranco, 2004); Evolve (Ani DiFranco, 2003); So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter (Ani DiFranco, 2002).