Before tonight I knew three things about Ani Difranco. 1, She has a ridiculous number of albums, 2. She’s an overt feminist and 3. I have always meant to listen to her properly but have never managed to find the time. As she launches into Little Plastic Castle I quickly learn that my laziness might be my biggest downfall. Ani is charismatic and enticing, her style of finger picking and poetry entwine with the excitement of the audience to create a stripped back powerful aura which fills the chapel.
Ani’s political vibe is perhaps her precursor, the one thing most people (myself included) seem to cling on to, and tonight she riddles the set with different messages. Whether it’s her solidarity with the Occupy movement in her cover of Woody Guthrie’s’ Do Re Mi, or her draft poem penned in her hotel room in Brighton, which send clear message about ‘the lopsided polarity of patriarchy’s power’, Ani ranges through subject matter, without losing herself in the depression of it all.
Perhaps I should have known better than to laugh at the opening few lines of Life Boat, but Ani manages to fuse humour with politics, a nod perhaps to the notion that sometimes you have to laugh at the madness of it all. Meanwhile, Mariachi shows Ani’s ability to look at life through a microscope goes across the board. Suffice to say whilst the new songs lay heavily on the political side, there’s a variation amongst it which leaves the audience transfixed.
As Ani opens the floor to ‘questions or suggestions’ which quickly moves into a room full of requests, we are granted an improvised version of Overlap with an audience member teaming up on a second guitar much to his (and the rest of the crowd’s) delight. Elsewhere the title track of her latest album Which Side Are You On? turns the audience into a choir and leads to a standing ovation, whilst the closing 32 Flavours highlights that Ani might have been out of my peripheral vision before, but I am now the newest recruit in her number of fans.