Monday, March 28, 2005

ani difranco and andrew bird in frankfurt

(to enlarge, right-click & select view image)
Last night we headed up to Frankfurt's Künstlerhaus Mousonturm where we saw Ani DiFranco and bassist Todd Sickafoose on tour to promote her latest release Knuckle Down. Admittedly, this was Ryan's idea as he is more of the Ani and folk genre fan, but after last night I'm going to give her another whirl. And I think Andrew Bird's help has something to do with that. He's perhaps the best opening act I've seen and the crowd's attentiveness could attest to that. This guy's schtick involves a couple of facets: He sounds like a cross between Rufus Wainwright (mostly) and Paul Simon (at times) and is able to generate a surprisingly full sound as a one-man band by sampling himself either on guitar or violin AND multi-tasks with the self-accompaniment of a glockenspiel. He explores every way to get a sound out of the violin without neglecting the classic bow on strings to smooth a song out or by using the interesting alternative of whistling. Put this guy by a canyon out west and guaranteed there will be little doggies gettin' along. To top it off, his songs have a good sense of humor with irony galore.

Ani invited him back out during her set for some accompaniment and this is where I feel her songs filled out just as they do on the newest album also featuring Bird. I know, I know...people like folk, punk folk or however you want to classify her because of the stripped down, bare bones sound of it all, but I need a little more. And this was it. Ani has maintained a similar sound throughout the years, eluding the bona fide sadness of her lyrics with the weapon of the guitar, stylistically relying on the often times fast-tempo string percussion and the metrical lyrics to pound out her anger or almost as some sort of pseudo-upbeat self-reassurance. I've rationally understood the lyrics to hold a sadness, but have felt a disconnect from actually feeling it in the music. It's possible I never listened hard enough. But Bird's accompaniment bridged this for me and seems to have lulled Ani and her guitar into beautiful moments of meeting the nemesis with a little more melodic honesty. I can't imagine this album being a disappointment to long time fans.

That's my "review" of the night.

About those long time fans: I've appreciated her politics, her stories, and her energy over the years, but I think the culture that makes up her fan base has made me wary of becoming too involved. Tori Amos has a similar following of die-hard and possessive fans who often seem more competitive than unified: a sort of mentality that seems to say to the next "I've been raped more times than you and therefore understand and identify with Ani more than you," of course prioritizing fame over the central and healing theme of her music. My intention here isn't insensitivity either--I've tended to my own sexual scars and it's even more shocking to be affronted with this in person as I have been. No doubt these are emotionally raw and fragile crowds who deserve their own Beatitude (and I'm not a religious person). It's just not the setting where I'd expect to see victims being victimized and I'm curious about others' perception of this. It may have been my one experience at a concert in Cincinnati but I'm interested in discussion...

Other concert reviews: Wilco and Death Cab for Cutie


  1. scuddie9:04 PM

    I saw Ani in Cinci too. I had never really heard her music before and someone had excellent tickets and dragged (drug?) me along. It turns out that Robbie was at that concert too, even though we hadn't met yet. And perhaps you were there too? Was it the freshman year of college?

  2. Well you'd think I would have been there at the same time given all the other bizarre things we share but I wasn't. It was, in fact, about a year ago this month in good ol' '04.