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(Live Review) Ani DiFranco Live

Jonathan Allan



Later this week Christchurch and Auckland will again play host to the forever touring goddess of modern folk-rock, Ani DiFranco.
Now in her early thirties, DiFranco is one of America’s most outstanding singer-songwriters, one Dominion Post journalist calling her “perhaps the greatest guitar player of our generation – male or female”. What is even more remarkable is that the folksinger from Buffalo, New York did it all on her own, fostering an enormous cult following based on a relentless touring schedule that includes 300 dates a year. When the major labels propositioned DiFranco she turned them away, instead choosing to maintain her own independent label and distributor, Righteous Babe Records.
Following 2004’s January release Educated Guess, she has released seventeen albums in fifteen years and is consistently one of the top 50 draw cards in the United States – and with good reason. DiFranco is described as a “literate, ebullient and untouchable live performer…that can rock the house one minute and bare its soul the next…producing a juxtaposition of brutal, fiery performance and gentle intimacies and a sound like no other”.
Often illustrated as a “folkie in punk’s clothing”, DiFranco intertwines her own self-deprecating relationship struggles with her leftist political agenda, critiquing Americana and embracing issues such as feminism.
DiFranco will arrive in New Zealand without her usual backing rock or jazz band that accompanied her on recent tours and albums. She has let them go to make way for a much more stripped-down sound which is evident on Educated Guess. The album is 100% solo (she wrote, performed, recorded, produced and released the entire album herself) and a tribute to her talent and perseverance. She also has plans to release a third live album – this time solo – by the end of the year.
DiFranco was last in New Zealand twelve months ago when opening for folk icon Bob Dylan, but Wellington fans were only privileged enough to catch a thirty-minute set. Her ability to stun and memorise audiences will make for two phenomenal shows in Christchurch and Auckland. Girl, did you kick some butt?