Ani DiFranco at Beacon Theater 11/22/03


Aquarian Weekly 12/10/03

Ani DiFranco / Beacon Theater 11/22/03

New York, New York

Ani in ReposeInconspicuously decked out in soothing earth tones, sans overt stage make-up or multi-colored locks, and eschewing her trademark platform shoes for modest flats, the 33-year-old, Ani Difranco cut a mature and mellowed figure as she deftly patrolled the vast stage of the Beacon Theater in a stirring solo performance. But that kind of labeling is too obvious, and wholly capricious in the wake of DiFranco’s ever-present apoplectic gyrations and inspired vocal dynamics that have made her one of modern folk music’s most passionate creatures for over a decade.

However, there was definitely something different on this night. Missing were the chuckling anecdotes from the road or the obligatory brash political statements that have peppered her most memorable performances these past years. In its stead was a performer of impeccable, almost arresting control, polished and musically demure, reflecting the path of her recent musical forays into jazz voicing and extended poetic musings.

Included was a new poem DiFranco pulled from her pants pocket and read with a humble throat-clearing smirk. Each ensuing line revealed a tortured, haunting manifestation of a woman coming to age in a furious world of rampant hypocrisy.

DiFranco’s voice, a symphony of range and emotion, was as finely tuned as I have ever heard it (over a dozen performances with and without a band) including the historic Carnegie Hall solo shows of 2001 and 2002. This led to mesmerizing versions of her most compelling songs, “Swan Dive”, “Your Next Bold Move”, “Reckoning”, “Little Plastic Castles”, the infectious, “Evolve”, and the probingly reflective, “Serpentine”. All were unfurled before the wildly receptive audience as a confession, a revelation or sorts; serious, humorous, dangerous and silly, and not one with a shred of fanfare.

The more recent numbers were interspersed with the occasional fan-favorite like the rhythmically playful, “Shameless”, which came with a humble preamble from DiFranco, as if apologizing for it having been written by an echo of the woman presently dipping into her grab bag of memories. But the evening’s treat was the premier of newer material that better observed the finer points of the artist’s demeanor; introspective and plaintive, yet unerringly defiant.

Receiving an advanced copy of Educated Guess, DiFranco’s latest completely solo effort, (due out this January) brought into focus the show’s more darkened portals. Fueled by siren odes such as “Origami” and “Bubble” packed with gripping melancholia like “I know men are delicate origami creatures, who need women to unfold them when they cry / But I’m tired of being your savior, and I’m tired of telling you why” and “I hated to pop the bubble of me and you / But it only held enough oxygen for a trip or two” further illustrates DiFranco’s in-your-face ethos.

Juxtaposed with the opening line from the wincing, “Rain Check”, “As dolls go I am broken” or a stanza from the charmingly dissonant, “Swim”, “I let you surround me, I let you drown me out with your din /And then I learned how to swim” is the fiery hope of DiFranco’s most personally and politically challenging poems, “The True Story of What Was” and “Grand Canyon”. In the former she whispers, “Oh to dream just for a moment of the picture outside the frame” and in the latter she swells, “I love my country, by which I mean I am indebted joyfully to all the people throughout its history who have fought the government to make right.”

The meditative evening concluded with the rarity of hearing the mature folk gal’s distinctive rendition of “Both Hands”, ironically the first song on her first record. Pulled out for the final encore, it served as the perfect epilogue to an enviable baring of her most delicate intimacies.

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