Pop: Music to drive by

ANI DIFRANCO THE FORUM LONDON

SEE, ANI honey, here's the deal: if you spit in the eye of big- bucks record company dictatorship and go out on your own, you need not only the music to get things rolling, you need to know how to keep the momentum.

No one's saying you don't have what it takes - not after you started out at 10 years old playing honky-tonks with a middle-aged muso, then sweating through endless coffee-house sets, where you honed that edgy, punk-folk sound and developed your gutsy, honey-sweet voice. Labels approached you, and you saw them off for all the right reasons ("I'm pretty much in this for the art and the inspiration and the politics... I'm not trying to become a big star"), instead using 50 bucks to launch your own record label, Righteous Babe. There followed a sack of albums filled with poignant, powerful songs, which got better and better until 1996's magnificent Dilate.

Since then, the output has been a bit complacent, and the shows tend that way, too. Three years ago, when I saw you in Dublin, you were incandescent. On Thursday night, the evening dragged. All right, it was freezing in there (apparently, the boiler packed up; that's England for you), which may have stifled some flow. Then one of your band had asthma (notices told us not to smoke), though the band seemed on fine form. You tore into the material with spindly arms splayed from the elbow like an autistic spider, flailing that guitar in staccato-flamenco style, confiding in the audience with endearing, wisecracks. ("One way to get warmer is to work yourself up into a little folk-singer tizzy. Notice me doing it?") The fans were yours from the start, but you could've picked your nose and the girls would'a cheered; your reputation as a militant lesbian icon marches right along. (Why do we put people in boxes? After all, you're married to your sound engineer.)

No, the problem was the songs you picked. You have a repertoire anyone would die for, from Appalachian resonance to molten funk and freeform jazz. Some of it did a twirl - the opening rap and building bass riff of Freakshow, the intense, broken time signatures of Providence, the devotional Everest, warm as a summer night and swooning into a gentle calypso beat. The rest, though, was a swampy mass, a continuing theme with little variation. This, I have to say, is where a record company producer usually comes in, providing that firm hand on the editing tool that cuts away incipient self-indulgence. At one point you chuckled, "I come from Buffalo, a place you drive through on the way to Niagara Falls". We waited and waited but, one after another, these were songs to motor through on the way to the rapids. Didn't you feel that, really, too?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas