Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ani, unexpectedly, in Central Park

I'd written it down in my planner back when they announced the SummerStage season: "Ani ... $36 at 7pm." But then I never got around to buying tickets and the show sold out and I crossed it out of my book. I forgot about it until this afternoon when I called Amy to say hi, and she said she was going to head down to the park and see if she could get tickets anyway. So I get out of the 6 train at the Hunter College stop after work, and I have two voice messages from her: Success! Tickets from a guy selling his pair, and bargained down to only a slight premium over what we would've paid had TicketMaster's and the tax man's fees been included. So there we were under a beautiful not-too-hot New York summer evening sky, watching Ani DiFranco do her amazing thing. I'm not as devoted a fan as Amy evidently was, and I haven't kept up with every album she's put out, but ever since Little Plastic Castle, I've enjoyed her songs, and respected her lyrics and musicianship. She's currently touring with an awesome upright bass player, who adds a nice grounding to her stuff, but even when it's just her and her guitar, she soars, creating a whole host of percussive sounds and rhythms. The crowd at an Ani show, especially an outdoor one, is always a sight to be seen, but Amy remarked at how there were actually more guys on hand than she expected. A couple of times throughout the show, when Ani's singing came down to a concentrated hush, it felt like the audience was getting a little restless, but overall they were very attentive and adoring, and so many people seemed to know all the words, and sing along to prove it. As her first encore, she played a song even I know by heart: "In a coffee shop in a city ..." Something I was reminded of again tonight was how much you can tell Ani respects the lyrics to her songs; this may not sound all that unique on its face, but during almost every song, I felt—underlying her singing—an urge that we get what she's saying: whether you're standing there, mouthing all the words along with her, or hearing a fair amount of them for the first time, like me. This concern of hers, perhaps, sticks out to me so much strongly because I so often come at a pop song from its music first and its lyrics later, if at all in certain cases. To highlight her words even more, she recited a poem of hers at one point, with her guitar silent. It began with the word "Manhattan."

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