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Ani Difranco at Shepherds Bush Empire

My wife and I were lucky enough to see Ani play recently at the Empire. To avoid the many cliches of gig review writing, I thought I’d try to simply describe why I enjoyed it so much.

I’ve seen Ani a number of times over the last 10 or so years and the thing that always stand out is how natural it is when she plays. Something certain musicians seem to share is that when they are playing it feels like second nature, as natural as breathing. Ani has this. She will have a chat to the audience, the sound man, or laugh to herself about something, all whilst playing something inherently groovy and often quite complex. It isn’t something she has to think about, she just does it.

This might not seem like something worth shouting about but it always strikes me. I think that this is due to the direct contrast there is between this and the passion and energy that she’s had every time I’ve seen her play. There is never a time that she seems less than completely involved in what she is saying and playing, regardless of how easy she may be finding it. This ability to completely give herself to her music makes her endlessly compelling to watch, even though I know the songs backwards!

As far as the actual gig, it was her usual brand of brilliant! A couple of unexpected oldies were fantastic and the large number of new songs have made me very excited to hear her upcoming album. I also feel like she is becoming more and more relaxed on stage. She spends longer talking to the audience than previously, which is great because she’s really funny! Her dry and self-deprecating wit creates a warm and familial atmosphere and puts her often very serious songs in a new, though no less affecting light. Sorry, I’ve begun to slip into reviewer speak!

Needless to say, it was fantastic gig. I will continue to see Ani every chance I get and strongly recommend any one who hasn’t seen her to do so. Whether or not you know her music, she is a truly inspiring performer and remains, for me, one of the greatest I have ever seen.