Music

Ani DiFranco: Carnegie Hall - 4.6.02

A top-notch snapshot of a performer coming to terms with a world that has been changed forever.


Ani DiFranco

Carnegie Hall - 4.6.02

Label: Righteous Babe
US Release Date: 2006-04-04
UK Release Date: 2006-05-08
iTunes affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

I've had a relationship with Ani DiFranco since around 1993.

This is not a conventional relationship, shall we say. It is somewhat of a long-distance one, but no less fulfilling for that. She and I don’t always agree, and she rarely listens to what I have to say. It is like she just doesn't hear me sometimes, and we don't see each other as much as we used to.

Before I get written off as some crazy stalker dude, I'll cut to the chase - the reason I feel the way I do is that Ani is one of the few artists I've discovered who hasn't later become fat and complacent on a major label (are you listening, Mr. Stipe?). Instead, she has built an empire of her own, on her terms. One of those terms is the way her music expresses an unflinching stare at American society, with all of its flaws and glory. On her records this lyrical gaze is sometimes smothered by her musical experimentation, as with her recent foray into funk. However, where she always succeeds is her live performance. The thing about Ani's (I hope she doesn't mind that I call her Ani) live performance is that you are left feeling that you have been really intimate with this lady. Hence the fact that I feel a connection.

Her previous general-release live albums, Living In Clip andSo Much Shouting So Much Laughter, shows this, but not as well as this new live album Carnegie Hall - 4.6.02 does. Here Ani is stripped from her touring band, playing alone to a Carnegie Hall audience seven short months after the events of September 11, 2001. She appears totally comfortable playing to a large audience and talking to them as if they were just friends in a bar. Equipped with only an acoustic guitar, a voice, and her arsenal of words, DiFranco wholly disarms the audience, not only with the performance of her songs but also with her between-song chitchat. In both aspects she appears honest; with every new line and every new chord you feel like you just get to know her better. Her (by now) trademark percussive style of guitar-playing is on full display, with nothing to obscure it. Her voice skips and soars at the same time, matching and counter-pointing the staccato of her finger-picking. Boy, can she play the guitar.

The selection of songs for this official bootleg CD (Note to Righteous Babe: "official" and "bootleg" are two words that rarely belong to each other) covers her career nicely. She raids the archives for older tunes "Names and Dates and Times", and treats the audience to songs that are not quite finished, like "Serpentine" and the poem "Self Evident". When I saw the latter two songs performed live with a full band, later on in 2002, they were more musical but by no means as emotionally executed.

There is a certain rawness and integrity to this recording. It is a snapshot of a performer coming to terms with a world that has been changed forever. With each song her show becomes more stripped, more frantic, and in places more out of key. Refusing to make any glib remarks about the demise of the people that worked in the Twin Towers and the landmark buildings themselves, Ani covers the thorny subject in her recital of "Self Evident". In the liner notes she covers the self-doubt that she felt before performing the poem, and you can hear the hesitation in her voice. No review will ever do this recital justice.

For me this recording is most reminiscent of her early recordings (if you haven't yet, check out Puddle Dive), which captured my interest so long ago. Its raw, stripped-down quality gets rid of some of her more recent funk pretensions and delivers her brand of folk/punk as she originally presented it. Ani DiFranco is always political. Whether it's the politics of personal relationships or those of the public political sphere, she has a way of finding the raw nerve and poking it with a toothpick. Moreover, she does this with a cute smile and a giggle. She is the most dangerous sort of protest singer: an angelic figure with a large axe hidden behind her back, ready to hack away at conspiracy and political complacency. While some of her more recent recordings have been musically experimental, with Carnegie Hall - 4.6.02 she shows that despite her success she still has her feet firmly on the ground and is every bit the travelling little folk singer with a punk twist.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image