REVIEW: DiFranco overcomes tough audience in Nashville performance

Chris Rutledge

Editor’s note: Herald reporter Chris Rutledge attended Saturday night’s Ani DiFranco concert in Nashville. Here are his thoughts on the concert.

When Ani DiFranco took the stage at the Cannery Ballroom Saturday night, she seemed distracted. Her fingers were sluggish and her voice was languid.

This could’ve been for a number of reasons.

Perhaps she was annoyed by the audience, half of which seemingly slapped down $35 to attempt to shout over the folk singer, or maybe it was just me who was annoyed by that.

Maybe it’s because this was a solo show, so there was no band there to help keep her on track.  

Or maybe DiFranco just had other things on her mind.
 Whatever the case, she didn’t hit her stride until around the time she started playing “Napoleon,” which is about as straight-forward as a DiFranco song gets. 

Fortunately for the audience, a distracted DiFranco is better than most singer/songwriters on a good day.
 So here she is in this big awkwardly shaped room full of loud, obnoxious, Nashville natives, a notoriously tough audience, and what does she do?

She reaches into her extended catalog and digs out some of the most gut wrenchingly emotional songs from her gut wrenchingly emotional body of work and tears the house down.
 One of the highlights was “Albacore,” off her new album “Which Side Are You On?” which she said she doesn’t play often because of its difficulty.

Another highlight was when she brought quirky opener Pearl and the Beard on stage to play the title track off the new album. The New York based trio was the perfect appetizer for DiFranco‘s beautiful but offbeat style of music.

Even fans of her older material got beautiful renditions of classic songs, to which DiFranco’s aging voice gave new life.

But she still seemed distracted.
 She had trouble remembering the words to several songs and practically butchered “Fuel.” But when DiFranco fails, she fails gracefully, and these mistakes seemed only to add personality to the show.
 So maybe she was distracted, and maybe she made some mistakes. she’s only human. And if there’s one thing DiFranco is good at capturing in her music, it’s humanity.