Story and photos Matt SchwenkeWhile snow flurries briefly drifted about Madison, Ani DiFranco provided respite at the Orpheum with her fiery guitar and soothing vocals and with her band of Todd Sickafoose on upright bass and Mike Dillon on vibes and percussion fanning the fire.
Pulling most of the musical logs from her 2006 release Reprieve, Ani went all the way back to the dusty corners of Not So Soft, from 1991, to deliver a vocal line that opened strong and faded to a tremolo as light as the falling snow. Showing impressive range with other earlier material, Ani's guitar and voice were forces to be dealt with in "Fuel" and "Gravel" from the 1996 release Little Plastic Castle .
But the new material represented the best of the evening, and "Way Tight," a tune Ani wrote the week of the show and performed solo during the show, gave a glimpse of a musician still penning creative work and comfortable with her craft-- Ani was endearing with many casual conversations with the crowd.
From the new album, "Decree" opened with an eerie swirl of vibes, taps on the body of the upright and Ani's skillful plucking of strings and later mixed strong lyrics about the state of America in a subtle manner that did not distract from the song. "Nicotine" featured an impassioned Ani and a bass solo from Sickafoose, and "78% H2O" featured awe-inspiring vibes with the up-beat strut of Ani on guitar-- of which she had many. One guitar that stood out was a four-string with a gritty, bare and bluesy tone, and Ani used to great effect on "Half-Assed" and especially "Hypnotized," which ended the night with many feeling exactly that.
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