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Ani DiFranco - Union Chapel, London, 10/1/2012

  by Sarah Rowland

published: 15 / 1 / 2012

Ani DiFranco - Union Chapel, London, 10/1/2012


Sarah Johnson watches American singer-songwriter and feminist Ani DiFranco play an energetic and immensely enjoyable set at the Union Chapel in London

A dusty library CD sale was where I first discovered Ani DiFranco. I picked out the album ‘Little Plastic Castle’ because it had a goldfish on the sleeve. The album looked well played with it’s broken cover. I took that as a good sign and bought it on a whim. The angsty yet poetic lyrics backed by folk infused acoustic guitars with a punky twist was right up my street. ‘Out of Range’ was the next DiFranco album to make it into my collection. But, for reasons unknown, before it became a familiar friend my musical tastes moved into other directions and I never became more than a casual listener. More than a few years later, one the best live music venues in London, The Union Chapel, is hosting two nights of DiFranco. On arriving the queue to get into the sold out venue is snaking down the street. Past town houses with their wooden shutters and warm glow, down the stone steps that lead on to this very exclusive street and out by the busy rush hour traffic. Inside the chapel is heaving. Young, old, friends, couples - the crowd is as diverse as DiFranco’s music career. There’s a queue at the hatch that sells tea, coffee and hot chocolate as people take a pew and look around in awe at the gothic architecture of the church. DiFranco arrives on stage with an easy presence that must come naturally to her after more than twenty years of performing and releasing music. She has a devoted crowd set out in front of her and ripples of excitement can be felt coursing across the wooden benches. She plays a wide range of old and new material. Picking out crowd pleasers with deeply personal and autobiographical lyrics then switching to more political songs from her newly released album ‘Which Side Are You On’. Her new material slants towards her more political style, but takes in the fast finger picking guitar and catchy riffs of her most popular early songs. In the past her political songs were often more spoken word with less emphasis on the music and all the focus on the words. Her new material is stronger for mixing up the best of her talents. A brave moment comes when the crowd shouts out a reoccurring request for ‘Out of Range’ track 'Overlap'. DiFranco is reluctant, saying she hasn’t played the guitar part in a long while but a hopeful voice shouts out from the crowd "I’ll play it for you." DiFranco jumps in with both feet and invites the voice on stage. Her risk pays off as the crowd is wowed by an energetic and seemless duet with fan Declan Bennett on guitar and stepping up to sing backing, which proved joyful to watch. There’s a standing ovation at the end of the show and a forceful chant for more. Fans aren’t disappointed when DiFranco returns for a second round of music. There’s dancing in the church aisle as the gig comes to an end. Difranco’s new material definitely sticks in the mind. It is political and opinionated without being preachy and has the energy and electricity of her early music. After the gig I dug out that old library copy of ‘Little Plastic Castle’. It’s still in its broken case with a peeling barcode sticker and faded sleeve. Like a lot of music, the record sounds even better since hearing it live. Discovering her music again has been a joy. Like getting back in touch with a familiar friend who turned out to be just around the corner all this time.

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Ani DiFranco - Union Chapel, London, 10/1/2012

Ani DiFranco - Union Chapel, London, 10/1/2012

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Binary (2017)
Essential new album from New York State-based singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, which is by a distance the most ambitious and inspiring record to have been released this year
Which Side Are You On? (2011)
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