Ani DiFrano & Andrew Bird (3/2/05)

Oh Ani... Well, I have to say she is probably the person I have seen most in concert. I believe this may have been around my twelfth time seeing her, only starting with her Dilate album back in 1998. I drove to Columbus to see her at the Newport. I can't even remember who opened. I stood about three people back, which didn't go over so well with the short lesbians behind me, but tough. I was mesmerized.

Ani rocked and crooned, without pretension and with all her heart. I was hooked. Working at the record store at the time, I had plenty of time to research music that interested me. So I scoured her backlog of releases and slowly she became what could be my favorite artist. Since Dilate, every album release afterward had been an event, a milestone of who and where I was. I've appreciated every change she's made, most of which can be seen as daring. I could go into discussion about her refusal to define her sexuality, her failed marriage, or the fact that she has successfully supported herself (and now others) on her own label. But it's not about that. It's the fact that she has remained true to herself as an artist, and it shows. She has poured her heart into what she does and what she loves, and it emanates from her... on CD and in her live performances.

Since that first show, I have travelled to see her at every location within a 3 hour drive. One time, when living in Findlay (OH) with my father, I even rented a full-size van and bought tickets for 6 of my female friends to see her in Cleveland. That was quite the trip... what was I thinking? This time, she was touring with Andrew Bird who was also on her label. Since listening to his first record, I've been very excited to see him live. I even got my roomie to go along.

This show was at a new location for her, the Lakewood Civic Auditorium (aka Lakewood High School). Previously I had seen Joan Baez (w/ Erin McKeown) and Nancy Griffith there. After some contemplation on the mystery of concert start times (is it the time on the ticket?) Andrew Bird walked out on stage. Quite the character, he had great confidence and a presence on stage. He donned a peasant-themed outfit, almost resembling a Medieval-era musician. He stood there performing as a one man band, surrounded with about 6 instruments. Every song had an approximate 2 minute "set-up" where he would record a sample of the instruments to be played on that song. Once the set-up was complete, he crafted an amazing portrait with his music bringing in all the different elements at different times creating crescendos and plateaus with his music. I couldn't even conceive how one person could manage such a diverse and fluctuating soundscape. See him any chance you get.

Ani came on stage with Todd Sickafoose with an upright bass. She kicked right in with the title track of her new album, Knuckle Down. Following this is my attempt at keeping track of the set list:

Knuckle Down
Little Plastic Castles
Sunday Morning
2 Little Girls
New Song
Lag Time
New Song (Millenium Spectacle?)
New Poem
New Song (Common Denominator?)
Studying Stones
Manhole (w/ Andrew Bird)
Shameless (w/ Andrew Bird)
32 Flavors (w/ Andrew Bird)

Throughout her show was typical Ani banter, half charming, half awkward. One of the more difficult aspects of going to Ani shows are her audiences. Often they draw they young, loud crowd. Which I don't have a problem with except when they scream "I Love You's" at the most improper times (even Ani is annoyed), but this time I noticed the audience being much more mature and appreciative. It was great to see that her audience matures as does her music.

Posted: Sat - March 5, 2005 at 02:25 PM           |