Entertainment » Music

Ani DiFranco at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel

by Kerri Kanelos
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Jan 23, 2008
Ani DiFranco at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel

On Tuesday night folk-rock goddess Ani DiFranco brought her latest tour, a collection of new works and revamped favorites, to Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence.

This was one of the greatest Ani performances I have ever attended, especially considering that it was the petite folk singer's first night on stage after suffering from a bout of acute laryngitis. She seemed genuinely excited to be back and eager to offer up a grotesque story involving a Boston doctor, a camera and her vocal chords--which apparently resemble an extra-terrestrial's vagina.

Guess you had to be there.

Righteous Babe Records artist Anais Mitchell opened the show with several songs from her full-length albums The Brightness and Hymns of the Exiled, as well as a song from her critically acclaimed folk opera Hadestown. Despite her credentials, the Vermont native failed to impress and tried too hard to win over the audience.

At times, she appeared uncomfortable on stage and crowd chatter threatened to completely drown out the performance-a difficult task for a sound system and overall venue the size of Lupo's. Mitchell will return to Providence on March 15th for a performance at Firehouse 13, a much smaller venue that may be better suited for her vocal style.

This time around was much different than usual Ani concerts due to the addition of three band members (Todd Sickafoose on bass, Allison Miller on drums, and Mike Dillon on percussion and vibes) that added new dimension and sound to some songs that are now over 18 years old.

After a powerful start with Names and Dates and People, DiFranco asked for song requests. The audience instantly erupted with screams, calling out dozens of song titles. With over twenty albums of music to choose from, no one seemed to agree on what they wanted to hear. I often forget that she started making music and raising hell when I was still in elementary school, so it's difficult for her to cover everyone's favorites.

Not a Pretty Girl, a song that DiFranco labeled "an oldy but crusty," evoked strong cheers from the crowd. Audience members appeared to enjoy all of her "crusty" tunes, including Two Little Girls, Gravel and a particularly noteworthy and jazzed up version of Both Hands. The set list also featured newer tunes such as Origami and an upbeat ditty dedicated to her "baby daddy."

Her most politically-motivated piece of the night, The Atom, started with a rousing call-to-arms around the proliferation of nuclear energy and the connection between cancer and corporate irresponsibility.

The only issue I had with the entire performance involved the distracting "Dennis Kucinich for President" balloons that bounced off of my head throughout the concert. I understand that DiFranco is a die-hard Kucinich supporter, but I didn't feel the desire to happily bounce balloons around the crowd while she played depressing, introspective numbers like Dilate.

Most notably, DiFranco appeared more relaxed, at-ease with her music, and humble than ever before. During her farewell, she thanked fans for supporting her music especially since she is not "the hot new thing."

After a deafening ovation, DiFranco returned to the stage for two fan favorites (Little Plastic Castle and 32 Flavors) and even allowed the audience to sing along-a practice that she has notoriously frowned upon until recently.

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