Show Review

Megan Eidelbach

I felt strong, somehow. I had just seen Ani Difranco.

Expect the unexpected. These are the words I repeated to myself over and over as I climbed into the car on February 26th for the hour long drive to Columbus for the Ani DiFranco concert. I was alternately nervous and excited, being that I had waited ten years plus to see Ani, and she had long since influenced me in so many ways, musically and personally since my early teenage years in the 1990s when I was a small-town Texas girl, living outside San Antonio.

I expected the snow, but I didn't expect a blizzard. Driving on the icy roads towards the LC, the venue in which DiFranco was to perform, was a hazard that had me clutching at the dashboard and cursing the state of Ohio for not spending state money on salt for the safety of people driving on the roads. But it was well worth it to enter through the doors of the LC and see the wide variety of people whose minds and hearts Ani had touched with her emotionally and politically charged music, some of which were openly lesbian, gay, or bisexual, others that were eager college students, older adults coming in after a long day at the office, people in their late twenties such as myself, and people like my dad, who in his early sixties, proclaimed himself an “instant fan”after Ani’s third song.

I was antsy and found myself craving a cigarette. I found the smoking area, which curiously enough, was through the bathroom door, past the stalls, and out another door that led outside. It was like this for both sexes, and the faces that came outside to face the downfall of snow had a look of questioning, like “Is this for real?” about the strange smoking passageway. I met many interesting people out there and found myself joking around with everyone. I then headed inside and wandered around aimlessly until the opening act was over. Finally it was time. It was time for Ani to come onstage.

When she walked out onto the brightly lit stage, fans crowded in a way that was strangely not like most concerts and live shows- they weren't rude and pushy, but courteous and excited; sharing in the pure closeness that Ani seemed to share with her fans. Her band was tightly knit and uniquely incorporated a xylophone player whom played like no other (I had never seen a xylophone player play in a rock band before). After she joked about the audience being insane for coming to see her in this weather, she began to play one of her old favorites, “Anticipate”. Being so small and of short stature, her build was that of a tiny bodybuilder, with the arms of someone who obviously worked out or lifted weights, making her seem like an out of this world mini powerhouse. Her voice carried strongly over the audience and over the seats in the balcony above, and I remember asking my father in amazement “Has she taken a drink of water during this entire concert?” in which he shook his head in response and awe. She played constantly, only stopping to change guitars. I began to feel the emotion pouring through me and tears fell down my face, and embarrassed, I hurriedly wiped them away only to look around me and see others doing the same thing touched by the torrent that was coming from that little figure on the stage.

Ani has been playing music live since she was nine years old. In 1989, DiFranco started Righteous Records (later changed to Righteous Babe Records in 1994.) She came out as a bisexual and wrote songs about love with both men and women. She maintains a devoted following, especially with the gay and lesbian community, who find strength in her lyrics. But she has an appeal to people of all backgrounds due to her poetic lyrics, her dedication to activism and the simple fact that it is so easy to identify with her songs as a whole. She gave birth to a daughter, Petah Lucia Napolitano, on January 20, 2007, and married the baby's father, Mike Napolitano, in January 2009, which she brought up in the concert as a joke, saying I have a “h-h-h-husband” in mock stutter to the audience. Her new album, actually released in 2008, Red Letter Year, was also co-produced by her new husband. Her new songs are heavily influenced, of course, by her family, and her love for them. Once again, her always hard-hitting lyrics never fail to hit a person right in the heart and take your breath away, leaving you gasping for air, having that feeling in your stomach when you know you just heard a really amazing song.

At some points in the concert, I just focused on Ani's energetic face. Her nonstop hyperactivity seemed to flow through her like some sort of special serum, and she seemed half her age, pounding away on the guitar like the pro she was, the acoustics filtering through the LC like a professional symphony. In her khakis and t-shirt, with her hair cut short and wavy, she seemed like any woman you would see walking down the street, albeit a little more confident and slightly more powerful. The music flowed from her fingers flawlessly, and her voice changed constantly from tone to tone, from growl to beautiful wail, to statements into the microphone. But all the while she didn't stop, not even to drink a sip of water. Her only pauses were to talk to the audience or to talk to the band, or to introduce the next song. She sang about abortion, her daughter, her husband, and love. And when it was time for her to leave the stage, the audience called for an encore... and she played for us. She sang “Little Plastic Castle,” a song off of one of her older albums, one which had a personal meaning for me, at which I began to cry again.

We drove all the way home and my father said the roads were the most dangerous he had driven on in over thirty years. I tried to help him see, and sometimes I would get afraid that we wouldn't make it home at all..but deep inside I really wasn't worried. I felt strong, somehow.

I had just seen Ani DiFranco.