Ani DiFranco Brings Back Some of That “Living In Clip” Magic With Andy Stochansky At The Ford REVIEW+PHOTO: Ani DiFranco at The Ford 6/23/22
LOS ANGELES, CA- For someone who live pretty frugally, I’m pretty proud of my music collection. I’ve got 1351 compacts discs, and 342 vinyl records that I’ve ordered chronologically, alphabetized by name/last name. The only time I make any exceptions to my OCD-like organizing is when there are albums I’m particularly fond of. My “best ofs”. I tend to place them at the front of the collection and sticking out slighting from the shelf so that I can quickly grab it to stick in a disc, or on a record, player.
There are a handful of albums that get this special treatment, and I’ve noticed that most of them are live-albums. My Depeche Mode 101, Jeff Buckley Live at Sin-e Deluxe Edition and Jellyfish Live at Bogarts get all have that distinction. Ani DiFranco’s Living In Clip also has this distinction.
I was in college when I found the double CD set of Living In Clip sitting in a used records rack at the college town record store I religiously meditated in. I was familiar with Ani DiFranco’s ubiquitous hit “32 Flavors”, so I decided to spend the $7.99 (the price sticker is still on the cardboard packaging!), and added it to my weekly buy of “new” music i rewarded myself with using money I earned serving beers at frat parties.
I fell in love with that album. Released in 1997, Living In Clip is a collection of Ani’s most-loved- at the time- songs. So my introduction to Ani’s repertoire was basically a collection of her “best of” live performances. I had friends tell me that best way to enjoy Ani DiFranco was to catch her perform her music live, and through this 2 CD set, I really got a sense of why they thought so. There is a real energy in those 31 tracks. It overflows with real tangible sense of humanity and passion, anger and vitriol, empathy and vulnerability. Songs like “Napoleon”, “Both Hands”, “Untouchable Face”… There was a good stretch of weeks that I had this album ready to play whenever I just wanted to lazily lounge around on a couch. I loved being able to listen to her sing her stories. There’s a quality in Ani’s voice and the way in which she presents the music that really lends itself to highlighting her storytelling ability. It was soothing and comforting, even if not all of the subject matter was necessarily “sweet”.
The funny… and ironic… thing is that as much as I loved this live album… and loved Ani’s music… I hadn’t yet seen her live in concert. I’d have a friend tell me about the latest Ani album, and I’d be the old curmudgeon to be the one who responded with a, “But have you heard Living In Clip“? Yup. Hadn’t even seen her live, and preached that that live album was still the “go-to” Ani album.
When I heard that Ani would be in Los Angeles performing at The Ford, I decided that 25 years was long enough. I needed to see her perform, and hopefully, she would be performing a handful of those songs from Living In Clip that I so adored.
Kicking off the evening was a strong performance by the Bay Area trio Rainbow Girls. The Rainbow Girls are Erin Chapin, Caitlin Gowdey and Vanessa Wilbourn and I absolutely loved their organic America and seamless harmonies. Their performance was spirited and spunky, filled with sharp repartee with the audience which at one point got the entire venue throwing up middle fingers to protest the then-current state of Supreme Court in light of the opinion that overturned the Roe vs Wade precedent.
Their music is a bluesy kinda folk with a country twang. They sang as the sun set and the typically late-arriving Los Angeles crowd sauntered to their seats. It’s a shame that people in Los Angeles prefer to be fashionably late than on time, as I’m sure that they would have loved not only the Rainbow Girls’ wonderful music, but also their congenial personalities. They earned as many laughs between songs as they didn’t applause when their songs finished.
But what really makes this group stand out are the simple yet lush three-part harmonies. There’s a real sense of musical traditional in those harmonies. A bit of a call back to the Andrew Sisters if the Andrew Sister sang folk music. Each member was featured as a soloist at some point during the set, further demonstrating the group’s strong vocal abilities. Their performance impressed me so much that I purchased a vinyl copy of their 2017 album American Dream and even shelled-out a few extra buckets for a copy that was autographed. Money well spent.
With 20 studio album under her below, there’s no question as to how prolific Ani DiFranco is. And over the course of those 20 albums, Ani has always taken a fearless approach to her music, singing about issues- both social and political- that matter to her. It’s her unflinching honesty, and the beautifully crafted compositions that she couches it in, that has earned her such a loyal following throughout her over 30 year career. Her most recent album, Revolutionary Love (released in 2021), reflects upon the discord in the U.S. due in no small part to Trump and stressed the importance of “compassionate living in catastrophic times.”
I assumed that the COVID-19 global pandemic have stalled the promotion of the album, so I figured that this concert would featured a majority of the songs from that album. Surprisingly, of the 11 tracks on Revolutionary Love, only (“Do or Die”, “Simultaneously”, “Chloroform”, “Bad Dream”, “Revolutionary Love”). The rest of the 19 song setlist songs from every phase of her career.
As I had mentioned earlier, Living In Clip is still my go-to, all-time favorite, Ani DiFranco album, I had dreamed that Ani’s performance at The Ford would be an homage to that seminal album, especially because the album is celebrating its 25th anniversary. I didn’t hold my breath, even thought she performed “Anticipate” to open her set … but we fans actually got a bit more than they were perhaps expecting.
On Living In Clip, there are only 3 people performing on the album (with the exception of the Buffalo Philharmonic for a couple of tracks): Andy Stochansky on drums, Sara Lee on bass, and DiFranco on acoustic guitar. After performing a band new song she had written, “TheThing At Hand”, she invited Andy to join her on stage. Together, they recreated a bit of the Living In Clip magic performing “Every State Line” and “Willing To Fight” together. Andy would leave the stage and Ani finished her set with four more songs which also included living Living In Clip’s “In Or Out”, “Shameless”.
For her encore, both Andy and Rainbow Girls joined Ani on stage to perform her ubiquitous hit “32 Flavors”. My heart melted a little bit when hearing how Rainbow Girls vocals sang the melodic lines in the song’s outro. Then when Ani finished her performance with “Joyful Girl”, all the feels came out in the venue. As Ani sang the following lyrics, you could feel the palpable reality of the lyrics:
“I do it for the joy it brings
‘Cause I’m a joyful girl
‘Cause the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
I do it ’cause it’s the least I can do
I do it ’cause I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to”
It’s rare those moments when you listen to the lyrics an artist sings and believe every word. I had felt that way all night with Ani’s performance, but her finale just slapped it in my face. She really does just do it for the joy it brings. She marches to the beat of her own drummer and she hopes that we appreciate that which she is preaching.
Joyful girls. Joyful boys. Joyful Ani. Just joyful. I appreciated every minute of it.
A wonderful night by a wonderful performer. My only regret was that it took me 25 years to finally see her live.
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