Ani DiFranco at Meow Wolf
Words by Kate Ferlic, images by David Del Mauro
Ani DiFranco is and always will be a goddess. Playing to a sold out crowd at Meow Wolf, Ani kept the energy high and the crowd engrossed.
Most of us were 40-something women who knew every word to her old songs, reliving our own coming-of-age moments from high school into our twenties. She played nineties classics like Little Plastic Castles, Shameless, Dilate, As Is, and Both Hands – accompanied by a grooving, sing along crowd. Some were acoustic solos, but for most of the songs Ani was accompanied by a bassist and drummer from New Orleans where she now lives.
She also played new, overtly political songs in which she continues to claim her power while at the same time showing a relatable vulnerability. These later songs seem to capture her new stage of life (mother, activist and artist) and also ours. She has grown up and we have grown up right along with her.
And there can’t be an Ani show without politics. While she refrained from criticizing our current president, she offered a decidedly pro-choice monologue followed by Play God – a reproductive rights rallying cry from her nineteenth studio album Binary (2017).
She is prolific and proven she can’t be pigeonholed with her mix of rock / funk / folk style. She has released a total of 21 studio albums, not including her compilations or live albums. And last night, she promised another studio album “soon!”
The range of her choices on what to play at each show seems endless. And for those who saw her in Albuquerque the night before, her set list was entirely different in Santa Fe.
She was right at home in the indie-art collective Meow Wolf – both of which enjoy commercial success by pushing the boundaries of immersive art but without big corporate sponsorship or control. Last night’s version of “The Million That You Never Made” seemed to acknowledge that. Her success with both her independent label (Righteous Babe Records) and her following of adoring fans is remarkable and well-deserved.
She rails against “the man” in a deeply personal way. She reminds us we should all take politics personally. At the same time, her songs reveal a deep and all-too-human fragility.
Ani opened her encore with a heartfelt version of Joyful Girl (“The world owes me nothing; we owe each other the world”). The joy she takes in her craft came shining through for this particular show and was frankly, contagious.
Truly, Ani’s gift is in her ability to reflect back to us the various experiences of women today – empowered yet vulnerable, free and heartbroken. She reminds us of how far we have come and how much further we have to go.
She claims it all…and for at least the show, we do too. In the song Overlap (from her 1994 and fifth studio album Out of Range), she sings “I build each one of my songs out of glass so you can see me inside them I suppose. Or you could just leave the image of me in the background, I guess. And watch your own reflection superimposed.” Ani became an icon in the 90s and from the looks of last night, certainly remains one today.