When Ani DiFranco stepped onstage the Eccles Theater Saturday night it was like the ‘90s had never left. She was dressed in a tank top and cargo pants cinched with a wide belt—the only thing missing from the singer-songwriter’s aesthetic was her once-trademark dreadlocks, which have long since been replaced with a ponytail. Oh, and one more thing was missing: DiFranco’s bassist,Todd Sickafoose, who was, she said, out sick.
And so, on the stage was only the singer and her drummer, Terrence Higgins. Who, despite their small size, managed to make quite a big noise. And combined with the seated theater setting made the show feel a lot more intimate than DiFranco’s last Salt Lake stop.
Speaking of which, DiFranco told the crowd—an unsurprisingly estrogen-heavy group—that she’d made a set list for the show and then quickly scrapped it after realizing it was almost exactly the same as the one she’d performed a year ago at The Depot. The resulting playlist was mostly newer stuff (laand B-sides, with just a few hat tips to the halcyon Riot Grrl days, among them “Napoleon” and a flawless “Shameless.”
And, man, Ani can play. A whole lot of acoustic guitars were on display last night—all dwarfing her tiny frame as she played. And she kicks—high and hard—like Natalie Merchant spins.
Easily the highlight of the show was a spoken-word segment called “Grand Canyon”—a poem DiFranco wrote over a decade ago but resonates today. It’s a feminist-patriotic mantra, which you should read or watch in full, but here’s a sampling of why, after reciting it Saturday night, DiFranco was met with a thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
I love my country
By which I mean
I am indebted joyfully
To all the people throughout its history
Who have fought the government to make right
Where so many cunning sons and daughters
Our fore mothers and forefathers
Came singing through slaughter
Came through hell and high water
So that we could stand here
And behold breathlessly the sight
How a raging river of tears
Cut a grand canyon of light
You see, for a woman who started her career by tapping into the angst and anger of young women in the ’90s, it seems that DiFranco has evolved. She’s gone from the rowdy friend you might have been uncomfortable introducing to your parents to, at the very least, an older-and-wiser sister who seems to know all of the secrets of the universe. Those of us in the crowd just want her to tell us all of her secrets. We all still want to be Ani DiFranco when we grow up.