LIVE: Ani DiFranco @ The Egg, 1/23/15

Review by Greg Haymes

Singer-songwriter and self-proclaimed “little folksinger” Ani DiFranco has been the poster child for do-it-yourself indie music for 25 years now, and she’s still doing it her own way. Staunchly. Fiercely. Unflinchingly.

At The Egg’s Hart Theatre on a recent Friday night, the Buffalo-born songsmith kicked off her tour in support of her new album, Allergic to Water, and she bookended her concert with vintage statements of identity, opening with “Not a Pretty Girl” (in which she declared “I am a patriot/I’ve been fighting the good fight”) and wrapping up her brace of encores with a request for her most popular song, “32 Flavors” (proudly stating, “I am 32 flavors… and then some”).

Indeed, while DiFranco began her career as an angry young folk-punk coffeehouse poet with a guitar, she has grown into an exceptionally well-rounded concert and recording artist, as she and her band – bassist Todd Sickafose and drummer Terence Higgins – incorporated elements of hip-hop, jazz, reggae and blues into a sparkling hour-and-a-half performance that offered her long-time fans plenty of vintage gems. “Shy,” “If He Tries Anything” and “Gravel” were particularly crowd-pleasing, while the stuttering time signatures of “Swan Dive” resulted in her best all-around performance.

But it was her new material that revealed the depth of her talent to crystalize daily life into musical gems. Now married 10 years with two children, DiFranco waxed optimistic and positively joyous with “Happy All the Time,” although she admitted that every day is not always wedded bliss with the soulful blues of “Harder Than It Needs to Be.” Summing it all up succintly on the title track of her new album, she sang, “This is me sincerely doing the best that I can,” and Ani DiFranco at her best is mighty, mighty good.

The sublime Vermont singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell opened the show with a too-short, six-song set that barely scratched the surface of her talents. Still, she and Saratoga multi-instrumentalist Ben Davis (from the band Cuddle Magic) were mesmerizing as they kicked off the evening with “Wedding Song” from Mitchell’s 2010 folk-opera “Hadestown” (recorded for DiFranco’s Righteous Babe record label) and didn’t make a misstep for the next 30 minutes.

Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Ani DiFranco is a force to be reckoned with. Now older and more family-centered, she has calmed down slightly. Friday night, the sold-out crowd at The Egg’s Hart Theater probably wanted her wilder, but even at her tamest, she is still wild, and her show, the opening performance of her tour, was awesome. DiFranco sang and talked about motherhood and relationships more than usual. And after a dozen acoustic songs, you expect them to start blending into one another, but as the night wore on, each song felt more distinct, DiFranco creating new characters and new energy each tune. This time around, she played with a band — a drummer and an acoustic bassist. Not that she needed them — she can carry a packed house by herself without effort — but drummer Terence Higgins and bassist Todd Sickafoose provided a fuller sound and made it easier for DiFranco to raise the excitement level for tunes like ‘If He Tries Anything’ and the opener, ‘Not a Pretty Girl.’ They also freed up DiFranco to settle into a rhythmic pocket. Still, she can’t help herself from working the guitar — she is physical, excitable and keen on strumming those strings.”

Not a Pretty Girl
Woe Be Gone
Careless Words
Allergic to Water
If He Tries Anything
Happy All the Time
Harder Than It Has to Be
Swan Dive
Sorry I Am
Rainy Parade
Untouchable Face
32 Flavors

Wedding Song
Cosmic American
Now You Know
Dyin Day

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