(Not) Angry Anymore: Ani DiFranco at First Avenue

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It’s difficult to explain how much Ani DiFranco meant to me when I was a teenager without sounding cheesy. Suffice to say, she was my hero. I read her lyrics like poetry and turned to her albums for solace and inspiration. My friend Lisa shared my obsession, and in 2009 we were finally able to see her in concert. We had second row seats at the Fargo Theater, a night that I still describe as one of the happiest experiences of my life.

Despite being less enamored with her new music, when Lisa suggested that we go to the concert at First Avenue, I was immediately on board. A common theme of Ani’s career is that she’s a better live performer than she is an album artist. While her albums have meant a lot to me, I would agree that nothing can compare to the energy of her live shows. She draws from her extensive back catalog with a smattering of new songs mixed in. Whatever our opinion of her new music, Lisa and I knew that the show was likely to be phenomenal.

First Ave is general admission, which makes for a far different experience than assigned seating at the Fargo Theater. I was surprised by how much I liked standing at an Ani show. At both of our concert experiences, we’ve been befriended by other audience members. I think that says a lot about the type of fans Ani attracts. So when the time came to dance along with her more high-energy tunes, it was fun to share that experience with the crowd. And was it ever a high energy show!

The first real treat was the night was “Marrow,” arguably one of her most lyrically impressive songs. She played it with all the intensity that the song requires. “Marrow” was followed by “Shy,” the first song to really make us dance, and it was probably around this time that I fell effortlessly back into my fangirl days of yore. “Not A Pretty Girl” was another treat because it doesn’t often pop up on live albums, not to mention being a touchstone song for her 1990s philosophy. She ended the night with “Gravel,” a classic that shows off her guitar wizardry, as well as whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

As I look at the setlist, there are plenty more songs that makes me say, “Oh, that was amazing too!” But that might not be the most interesting blog post. She also played five songs from the upcoming album that’s set to be released on November 4. Before the show, I said to Lisa, “She’ll probably play three songs from the new album tops.” I guess that’s what I get for being a know-it-all. The new songs sound good live, but I will have to report back after listening to the album. There were two songs in particular that got me excited for the prospect.

Ani’s tank top was drenched in sweat by the end of the show. She gave her all for us, and she was visibly appreciative of the crowd’s enthusiasm. As it turns out, she’s still my hero.

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