Ani DiFranco delights crowd in Lowell

A review of Ani DiFranco at the Lowell Summer Music Series on July 11, 2009

, Staff

It was a breezy but beautiful summer night that set the stage for an inspiring performance by Ani DiFranco at Boarding House Park as part of at the Lowell Summer Music Series. Saturday’s concert, which was co-sponsored by Boston Music Spotlight, was played to a near-capacity crowd of faithful Ani DiFranco followers of all ages. With her alternative folk sound, melodic voice, and genuine lyrics, fans were left moved by the intimate performance.

“I’m kinda new around here but I like your town," DiFranco declared as she hit the stage, "it’s very vibey, very cool.” After receiving a strong response from the audience, she casually mentioned, “We’re going to play some songs” before kicking things off with “Anticipate.”

DiFranco was accompanied by bassist Todd Sickafoose and drummer Allison Miller, who combined with her fast singing and deep guitar riffs, made for a thrilling two-hour set filled with signature Ani, both old and new. It was hard to believe that such powerful sounds came from only three instruments.

Following a brilliantly played “Fuel”, DiFranco charmed the audience with the country-flavored “If He Tries Anything.” Then, pronouncing this is “for the ladies,” DiFranco delighted the crowd with a song from her earlier days about being there for your friends. As the sun disappeared, so did the crowd from DiFranco’s view on stage, but the fans reassured her they were still there with their accolades. Next came the crowd pleaser, “Swan Dive”, which DiFranco noted was “a first attempt at a happy song,” which seems to be the direction her songs have taken as she has evolved as an artist. Thanking the crowd for helping her get through her “dark years,” DiFranco switched gears to play some new tunes.

One standout from the batch of new material was “Nov. 4, 2008”, which she “wrote on Nov. 5th in between sobs [of joy].” Noting the thrilling change on Election Day, DiFranco stated that Obama “inspires us to be citizens again.” The crowd displayed their affection to her honest lyrics “Oh President Obama/It’s an honor just to say it/I used to hide my passport/Now I want to display it”.

After an uplifting “Smiling Underneath”, DiFranco slowed things down with two dedications, “Albacore” and "Present/Infant” for her husband and 2 ½ year old, respectively. Stating that it “took a long time to find love,” there was certainly no absence of it in these two songs, which she sang softly and beautifully to a completely still audience, taking it in.

DiFranco also paid tribute to folk legend Pete Seeger, whom she played for on his 90th birthday celebration earlier this year in New York, with her rendition of “Which Side Are You On”. Although she said that in the folk tradition she “killed it dramatically,” the crowd seemed to disagree as they were clapping and dancing along to the old labor union song.

The main set came to a close with one new song, “If You’re Not” and one older, “Shameless”. Perhaps her most well-received lyrics of the night were during “If You’re Not” with the brutally honest line, “If you’re not getting happier as you get older/Then you’re fucking up". She then wished good things for her audience and had everyone up on their feet dancing and singing along to the said “dance number”, “Shameless”, as a light rain began to fall. It was as if the heavens opened up in celebration of the amazing night.

Returning on stage for an exciting encore, DiFranco played crowd favorites “Both Hands” and “32 Flavors”. Everyone was still on their feet, both hands in the air, swaying to the music and singing every word. There was no doubt that fans filed out of Boarding House Park completely satisfied.

The journey from darker songs to more happy ones seemed to be in line with DiFranco’s personal evolution, which she was not afraid to share with her audience. Every song told a story and a lesson with every lyric as brave, honest, and real as Ani DiFranco is herself, which showed in the way she played for her fans, her friends, making it an unforgettable evening.&

Opening the show in support of Ani DiFranco was The Guggenheim Grotto, all the way from Dublin, Ireland.

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