8:30 p.m.-Somebody call George Clinton. There’s a huge, crazy man with dreadlocks dancing around in the righthand corner of the stage (I think Parliament Funkadelic dropped him off at the wrong bus-stop).
9:00 p.m.- she’s TINY!!!
Even though the Ani concert was about three hours long, that’s all I managed to scrawl in the darkness. What started out as an ambitious exercise in journalism trailed off into errant inkmarks and tearstains, an unconventional documentation of the night that I found absolute beauty in the Mullins Center.
My evening with Ani (and friends) was simultaneously punctuated by more estrogen than a Backstreet Boys concert and an astounding intimacy that you can usually only find in the smaller haunts of affected urban hipsters. In fact, DiFranco herself took time out to thank the audience for its propensity towards this intimate environment, letting her infamously zany concert-humor out to play: “It’s kind of intimidating. I feel like I could fart and everyone would be aware of it.” Perhaps it was a little too much information, but you can’t deny that she’s cute.
Really cute, in fact. She can’t be more than five feet tall, and she’s eclipsed by the size of her thunderous guitar and the sound of her powerful voice. If you close your eyes and listen, you’d think her vocals were coming from a mountain goddess, some supernatural force. Open them again, and you’ll see an unbreakable pixie. Either way, she put on one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.
Beginning with a few of her older songs, Ani was flawlessly powerful. Even when she broke a string during a heartwrenching performance of “Done Wrong,” she was picture perfect in her angst, striking chords with such force that I was surprised she didn’t break the entire guitar. She also shined during such poetic moments as her performances of “Fuel” and “The Slant,” eliciting near-orgasmic cries of approval from the excitable audience. Moving into newer fare from the uber-political “To The Teeth” album, Ani was unbelievable as she heralded the case of the casualties of America’s drug war during the melodic-yet-gutteral “Tis of Thee.”
As a remarkable bonus, she played a couple of new songs (here’s my insider’s tip for you: buy the next album she puts out. BUY IT.), emotional gems of wisdom in a veritable minefield of heartache and learning experiences. Then, in what was perhaps the most insanely juxtaposed moment of her entire show, she and her band took the stage and gave a rousing encore performance, choosing “Superfreak” as their swan song material. There was something absurdly apropos about this; it was a mercurial, misshapen brick in the wall: oddly lovable and strangely satisfying. But that wasn’t all.
Under a lone blue-green spotlight, DiFranco returned, a folkie triumphant. The staccato rumblings of “Both Hands” began to emanate throughout the stadium, causing her fans to scream and jump higher than possible. Stopping contemplatively and allowing fans to finish a few of her musical musings, she was painting perfection within this intimate radius. In this immaculate moment of lyrical summation, the unlikely siren had sent her message to the masses, and that’s when I found it: beauty at the Mullins Center.