'So you all seem pretty excited, while I'm more sleepy tonight, so this should make an interesting date.' Last night Miss R and I went to the Union Chapel, a beautiful little church in Islington with stain glass windows and wooden pews. We were there to see the lovely Ani DiFranco, one of my long standing heroines and a significant influence on my teenage years.
The night started with a really sweet lady called Ruth Theodore who played her guitar barefoot and sang quirky songs that we couldn't hear all the lyrics to. One of them was about Pluto falling in love with another planet, I think. She said that it had been quite cold in her dressing room, so she'd been doing star jumps to keep warm and had twisted her ankle a bit. She stepped on it a bit funny during a song said 'It's pathetic, I have a star jump injury!' She was immensely endearing and I instantly wished that I knew her in real life.
I've seen Ani a few times before and every time feels different. The venue was very beautiful and intimate and this was the first time without a backing band, so it was just Ani and a guitar. Or well, actually several guitars cos she uses different ones for different songs. From the angle we were sat at we could see one of the crew tuning up the guitar for the next song... which all got thrown up in the air when she decided to improvise a couple of songs at the request of the audience. I could also see the sound guy at the back having a little dance during the songs too, which made me happy. She started off with one of my favourites, 'Angry Any More' and she followed up with some other classics ('Napoleon','Everest', 'Reckoning','Untouchable Face') and eventually some tracks from her new album, which are distinctly more cheerful than some of her early songs. She talked a little bit about trying not to pass on the insecurities about her face when she had her daughter (she got those from her mum, who didn't like her face either) and the shock of her daughter suddenly coming home all princessy after starting pre-school (someone in audience shouted 'It's a phase!'). She read us a poem she'd written the night before. She told us about an old cathedral in Buffalo, NY (where she grew up) that her and a friend bought because the authorities were going to tear it down - they had to take down one of the towers at the front and reconstruct it stone by stone because it had started to twist right round. (It turns out Buffalo is located on layers and layers of sand so the buildings shift over time.) I love the way that she makes you feel at home, like you've just popped by hers for a cup of tea and she happens to have her guitar out. She finally went off stage to a massive standing ovation. Then she came back out and did 'Both Hands' which took me right back to being 16 again, then the title track from the new album, (reminiscent of a 1930's political strike song) called 'Which side are you on?', which got everyone singing and clapping, and finally rounding off with 'Shameless' which got people up dancing.
She is still one of the most amazing singers I've come across, especially just up there with only a guitar for company. She's made so many albums and sung so many songs but even so I still get excited that she's still making music. Sometimes it feels like she's singing just for me.