Ani DiFranco has earned a long list of accomplishments that are described as a folk-punk-indie rock singer, one-woman show, poet, and feminist entrepreneur. She released her memoir, No Walls in a Recurring Dream, last May. The memoir covers how her career came to pass and how she helped launch a whole new generation of feminism in the early nineties.
It’s been a very long decade since Tucson has experienced an Ani DiFranco live performance and much has happened both politically and personally for the folk-rocker. She has recorded 20 record albums and sold nearly six million albums since she launched her career. There are a plethora of social challenges for DiFranco to continue to weigh in on and write about. Women’s rights, sexual abuse, gun violence, and patriarchy are as hot topics today as they were in the 1990s. Life is still messy and DiFranco shares her messy experiences in song, poetry, and in her new book.
What has not changed since her last visit to Tucson is her innate ability to hypnotize a packed house with her whirlwind, energetic performance and her poetic writing – which she did at the Fox Theatre on February, 13th. Many of her songs resonate as much now as they did when she first wrote them.
DiFranco brought along her longtime bassist, Todd Sickafoose, and drummer, Terence Higgins. Both musicians are keenly aware of DiFranco’s nuances and are able to support her no matter where her performance leads. DiFranco has a very unique and skillful style of playing guitar that has a bass-heavy sound. She strums using super-glued fake nails on her right hand (no pick). Her music is a blend of the personal as well as political. One of the highlights of the evening was “Play God.” The song starts with DiFranco’s own experience of becoming an emancipated minor at age 15 that expands to reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to choose.
The only cover song of the evening was Anais Mitchell’s “Why We Build a Wall.” It is a perfect choice for today’s political climate and Tucson’s close location to the Mexican border. Another tasty treat was “Contagious.” DiFranco wrote the song the afternoon prior to the show. It will be a staple in her songbook. “Simultaneously” was another new song performed with the tour’s opening singer, Jesca Hoop.
It’s always a pleasure to hear writers reveal how their songs evolve. She prefaced several of the songs with, “Somebody gave me this stream of consciousness serum. There is no mystery. I’ll take a risk that I‘m taking the mystery out of this song.” The song she was introducing was “Life Boat” She continued, “I am a fairly emotional person in case you didn’t know if that shows. My best friend in this world is bi-polar. Luckily, I’m one click short of that so I don’t have to take medication. This is what I might be in this world if I had not had so many blessings.”
The tempo of her career may have changed, but her gritty spirit remains the same. When DiFranco began her quest, she was a lone voice. The “#metoo” movement has many people involved now and she is no longer alone. DiFranco is on the path of being real and spreading love during her shows with sensibility, humor, and hope.