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Published: 2015/03/03
by Dan Warry-Smith

Ani DiFranco, Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON- 2/2

Ani DiFranco has never really been one to look back, exercising a tireless output throughout her songwriting life with a steady stream of genuine folk philosophizing and straight-up musical brilliance. With eighteen studio albums under her belt and a well of songs consistently bursting from her brain, the Buffalonian cult hero has banked on fearless intuition in her artistic journey. Now, 25 years into her prolific momentum-driven ride, DiFranco is taking some time to bask in her own mythology while still striding ever forward.

In opening her Toronto set, “Not A Pretty Girl” showed how far back DiFranco intended to reach when digging into her bag of crowd-pleasing tricks. Another veteran selection appeared next in “If He Tries Anything”, which tipped off its age via a reference to the antiquated practice of hitchhiking. 2014’s “Allergic To Water” LP then took the reigns, with drummer Terence Higgins showing off his syncopated subtlety on “Carless Words” before the melodic brightness and finger-picked beauty of the title track resonated around the hushed Danforth Music Hall.

“When I say ‘Isis’ in this song, I mean the goddess”, DiFranco chuckled ahead of the charmingly lazy “Happy All The Time”. Her audience interaction remained fluid when introducing a new song written this past autumn at Manchester Cathedral – not her first criticism of organized religion, and unlikely to be her last. Higgins shone once more with a kazoo solo on the twangy “Harder Than It Needs To Be”, which evoked Emmylou Harris while closing the book on the new material. A love-fest run of fan favorites would close things out from that point.

The poignancy of the line – “There’s where I come from and where I’m going, and there is no in-between” – was never truer than in this latest rendering of “Shy”, DiFranco laying bare her current approach to setlist creation. Bona fide classics continued to roll out as “Fire Door” and “Untouchable Face” finally brought fans to their feet and creeping up the aisles toward the stage. Higgins and double bass player Todd Sickafoose happily rocked along to the set-closing “Shameless”, and they all exited to a standing ovation.

A few years ago, DiFranco was the kind of artist to spotlight her latest songs and hand-pick an array of older stuff, leaving much of her beloved catalog on the table. For her Toronto encore, with a sizeable trove of the new batch already relayed, the double-shot of “Both Hands” and “32 Flavors” signified an embrace of the audience-adored classics. A quarter-century into her exemplary career, DiFranco is as vital as ever. There’s where she comes from and where she’s going, and the harmony between is merely one aspect of her dazzling legend.

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