Ani DiFranco

Lowry Centre, Manchester
25th January 2011

Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan

No matter how many so-called deities you wish upon, or how many nights you sit with fists clenched in wish driven pain, somehow some things never seem to happen at all.

But sometimes there are exceptions to the ever-so unruly rule. Tonight was one of those occasions as I got to see folk legend Ani DiFranco live on stage on the Manchester leg of a rare European tour at the pleasantly far flung and extremely colourful Lowry. Indeed, far from the dimming crowds of Manchester's busy city centre, there was magic to be found only a bumpy tram ride away as the show began with the lights dimming majestically on an already light starved venue that was packed to the brim and braced for a show of epic proportions from the self-professed little folk singer.

Indeed, the moment she walked out and picked up one of her many guitars - which revolved through the set to sometimes comic effect as they were plugged in - the rapture was instant, with DiFranco launching into opener Anticipate. The set was heavy with recent, and best of all, new songs - some of which she admitted were getting slightly less so after four years of playing them! - including Unworry, Closer, and the hilarious song which was possibly entitled Halfway Down the Street. When DiFranco decides that a new album is ready for the releasing, it seems that it will be something to look forward to by the quality of the songs performed today.

Of the recent songs, Your Next Bold Move was introduced with a timely "unfortunately, I'm sure you can relate all too well to my political circumstances" which we all did (the song concerns Reaganomics and the political scene of the 1980s in the US). The political songs moved to ecological concerns for another new song possibly entitled Deepest Louisiana which concerned itself with nuclear factories and oil pollution, which was excellent and as always relevant. Best of all though was a stirring version of the old union song from the 1930s Industrial Workers of the World, slightly updated to the times we're in. If the audience was quiet before, they were clapping along and singing along to the chorus of "Whose side are you on? Whose side are you on?" I found myself wishing that there were more singers doing this in the UK as the crowd here were instantly receptive and music is after all the best way to spread the message to the world.

In truth, DiFranco could have played three sets and still had a waiting audience. The eighteen song set was well chosen and well received by the audience. The only complaints one could make is that more songs were not played from the older albums - with only Shameless, Both Hands and Gravel making the already quality set list - and the sound being occasionally too snug in the intimate venue, as noted by DiFranco herself in her comment that the venue was like a "magnifying glass." Other than that, it was another quality set from folk music's most independent artist.

The next time Ani DiFranco stops over in the UK make sure your calendar is free for a stirring and life affirming set from a truly independent artist with scope to keep the quality going for years to come.

To find out more about the substantial body of work from Ani DiFranco visit Righteous Babe Records.

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