Ani Difranco

Ani Difranco

Ani Difranco

Carnegie Hall 4.6.02

Righteous Babe

I have had this Ani Difranco CD (part of her authorized live bootleg series) lying on my desk for over a year at this point. Every time I grabbed it, I’ve set it back down thinking “not just yet.”

Let me explain, I was the biggest of BIG Ani Difranco fans. Huge! From 1994-2002 I managed to see her live no less than 16 times (and those were in the days when I still had to pay to get into concerts!). I listened to her incessantly, to put it mildly. Basically, I wore myself out. Got folked out. Yet even though she may have found her way out of my playlist, I have always held her cocooned in my musical heart knowing that one day she’d find her way back in when I was ready. Until that day, I felt, it was not fair to review Carnegie Hall 4.6.02.

Last night an old friend reopened my love for this sort of anti-folk music (folk music that rocks too hard to be lumped into the category but finds itself under the folk umbrella because of the acoustic guitars and poetic lyrics), and this morning I have finally put this disc on for its initial spin.

In 2002, when this live record was recorded, Difranco was riding the crest of her popularity in the independent world. Her shows had become so big that even she felt small by comparison, and so she stripped everything back — embarking on a solo (band-less) tour — in an attempt to bring the audience (and, perhaps, herself) back to the ground. It, like all Ani Difranco performances, is one of the purest examples of live music available.

This particular night’s set found her interspersing old favorites (“God’s Country,” “Out of Range,” “Angry Anymore”) with then brand new songs (“In the Way,” “2nd Intermission,” “Serpentine”) from her yet to be released Evolve. Also finding its way into the set was the title song off of her 2004 release Educated Guess, dating itself as being 2 years old by the time it was officially pressed.

In between songs is the revealing conversational banter that the folksinger is known for — whether it’s talking about how happy families freak her out, or revealing the subject behind the song “Gratitude.” It’s her heart-on-her-sleeve stage presence, as much as her ridiculously complex guitar work and thought provoking lyrics, that puts Ani Difranco in a category all her own as a singer/songwriter.

Now I have to dig up her back catalog of a couple dozen albums (studio and live — because I like to have choices!) and resync my iPod.

Righteous Babe: www.righteousbabe.com

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