Ani Difranco played Town Hall last night, to a rather subdued, though excited audience. She still turned it out, the consummate professional. It's a reminder to all performers, whatever medium, that a quiet audience doesn't mean they're not out there--it just means that they're listening.
She played a series of old songs, "Dilate," "Not a Pretty Girl," "You Had Time," "If He Tries Anything," and pretty much avoided anything from the records of three or so years ago. She's happy now, at least that's what she's calling it. It shows: song choices, clothing choices, hair choices--all of it more womanly, more open, more relaxed than I have ever seen her. I've seen her on stage more than twenty-five times--okay, I'm a bit much here--and this year both last night, and in Brooklyn back in July, she keeps having more and more fun on stage.
She played "Good Luck," the song that has become the Loch Ness monster of Ani songs--which is to say that she played it once a year or two ago, and then it disappeared, no bootleg of it surfaced, and many fans began to think that perhaps it didn't really exist. It does exist, and it's, well, okay. The band seemed to really be grooving on it--which may be because they haven't played it a hundred times already. But I remember when I first hear songs from Revelling/Reckoning--I was in Amherst, and she played, one after the other, "Ain't That the Way," "Marrow," and "Rock, Paper, Scissors." I thought they were okay. But they grew on me, and now I love them. So who knows?
The highlight of the show was a spoken word piece Reprieve. There are times when you hear a song on the record and you think, oh that's good, and then you don't particularly pay much attention to it again. But then you hear the song performed live and something about the immediacy of the performance allows you to hear it better--poetry works especially well for this. I loved this poem last night.
The crowd was older, as her crowds are getting--of course she is getting older, too. Fans that found her in the early part of her career, the early nineties, are now fifteen years older. She's had a difficult relationship with her fans in the past--difficult is perhaps the wrong word; complicated is a better choice--and she's talked about that often in interviews, and, most notably, right there on stage in front of thousands of them. "I love you guys," she said last night. "I love you guys now, too." Everyone laughed. "Not just when you're all I got."