Esplanade Theatre, 10th February 2009.
Ani DiFranco’s first performance in Singapore was almost perfection itself. Displaying a mastery of guitar technique that blew all who witnessed it, boasting lyrical concerns that were diverse as they were direct and most of all, radiating the love and passion that held it all together and kept a rapt audience enthralled for just under two hours.
Delivering 20 songs (including two new unreleased tracks), drawn mainly from 2008’s Red Letter Year, Knuckle Down and Little Plastic Castle, Ani herself described her set list as schizophrenic – alternating between love and hate songs/up and down songs. Thus, you had Present Infant – Ani’s memoir on motherhood next to Nicotine, a harsh look at addictive relationships, then on to Atom – Ani’s protest anthem agasint nuclear energy next to Albacore, that new song celebrating her recent marriage.
But the audience was not too bothered, they were too busy being awed by Ani’s ability to express emotional and intellectual moments with equal gusto, with the basic building blocks of voice and acoustic guitar. And there were many many guitars, as a seemingly endless supply of cool looking axes were brought out (almost ritual-like) by Ani’s guitar technician.
Not that the role of the band viz. Todd Sickafoose (upright bass), Allison Miller (drums) and Mike Dillon (vibes, percussion) should be diminished. And when Ani and the band cut loose, it didn’t matter that there were no humongous pedal boards on the floor as everyone in the arena could attest to the sheer power that emanated from the stage. All of which certainly affirmed the relevance of folk music even in this modern day and age. Inspiring.
To top it all off, Ani debuted a new song called November 4th, 2008. Yes, a song celebrating Barack Obama’s historic election as the 44th President of the USA. To hear an American protest singer singing the praises of her President was well, shocking (!) and certainly pleasing. A great song, any way you look at it.
An unforgettable virtuoso performance (with the venue sound crystal clear, no less!) from an artist in her prime.