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Ani DiFranco at The Union Chapel 10/01/2011

Ani DiFranco took the stage at the Union Chapel beaming with smiles, ploughing through her 18 album back catalogue and highlights from her latest “Whose side are you on?”.  But behind the smiles and charm, she’s lost none of her politicised anger or sense of indignation at the world’s wrongs.

Alone onstage with her armoury of guitars, the wonderful acoustics of the Union Chapel are perfectly suited to her songs, as each twang, bump, and breath reverberates through the audience. It’s as if she’s playing the room as well as her guitar.

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The personal and the political have always been major themes in her music, or as she says it “the connections between things”, a good example being  ‘J’, a song about the effect of the Gulf oil spill on her adopted New Orleans. She lambasts Obama for his perceived inaction: “I mean, dude could be FDR right now, instead he’s just shifting his weight.”

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As a rare visitor to the UK, she could do no wrong with her fanbase tonight. Even the reading of a “spiritual poem” she had written between yoga sessions in her hotel room that day received rapturous applause. At one point she asked for requests; ‘Overlap’ was requested by one audience member, who was then invited onstage to play guitar with her on the song.  It could have been a disaster, but it turned out he knew the song just fine, and it was one of those great moments where the barrier between artist and audience disappears.

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For an encore she played 2 covers: Woody Guthrie’s ‘Do Re Me’, and a rousing update of Florence Reece’s Union anthem ‘Which side are you on’ rewritten to include references to modern economic woes and injustices.

A domesticated DiFranco then, but still fighting the good fight.

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Ani DiFranco’s new album ‘Whose side are you on?’ is out now.

Photos by www.markwilliamsphotography.com

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