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ANI DIFRANCO – Live at Babeville (DVD, Righteous Babe Records)

Posted: June 3rd, 2008, by Pascal Ansell

After 17 studio albums and having a foreign organism having fed off her food then forcibly left her poor body in a process known as ‘child-birth’, the Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Ani Difranco decided not to put her feet up. Instead she decided to make a live DVD of her band playing in a converted church in downtown Manhattan. It happens to be one she restored into the delightful venue Babeville, named after her record label, Righteous Babe.

Ani plays a sophisticated strain of acoustic pop; intelligent, tasteful and shrewdly put together. Her music resembles a toned-down and less bloody-minded Alanis Morissette, but not without a terrific bite to the lyrics. They concern a few main topics: politics, activism, identity; a good number of songs sketch out the ‘get-out-of-my-house-and-my-life’ scenario, or the pursuing of a successful relationship and the inevitable pain of it never succeeding. And how bloody awful men are. Hmm. Ani’s a long-suffering activist and outspoken critic of, well, lots of things, evident in this gem of a justification:

Every time I say something they find hard to hear / They chalk it up to my anger / And never to their own fear

As she begins her set, Ani tells the crowd that “I hope you feel photogenic” as 6 cameras dart around the hall, her drummer, percussionist and bassist retaining poise as they poke around their unmentionables. The percussionist, Mike Dillon, is Difranco’s discreet but remarkable bandmember, who warps his vibes through a delay pedal, squashing the signal about the tall church walls, with some delicate tabla tapping to compliment the mix.

While trying to avoid, avoid, avoid the irresistible cliché, (her lyrics are so clever that it will out anyhow): every song is a story, an argument. Let’s not forget the magnificent lyrics to her latest song ‘Present/Infant’ – (very touching considering the arrival of her child): “I would defend to the ends of the earth / Her perfect right to be”. The sight of a parent moulding their young to an ‘ideal child’ is always worrying – Ani’s artistic and maternal dignity is sealed in a sentence. I think I love her.

Pascal Ansell


Pascal Ansell

Pascal is a fearsome, hungry giant trapped in the body of a hyperactive boy. On a mission to waste no more than 14 seconds per day, he bounds from activity to activity like a deer being chased by a cheetah. Follow him now, as in ten year's time he'll be a leading voice in something or other. He's also writing down every word you say in a small book so watch out!


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