Music News & Reviews

Indie label icon Ani DiFranco mixes politics, family at ‘Vote Dammit!’ tour stop

Ani DiFranco called for political change during her concert at The State Theatre on Saturday as part of her “Vote Dammit!” tour.
Ani DiFranco called for political change during her concert at The State Theatre on Saturday as part of her “Vote Dammit!” tour. Tribune News Service, file

Armed with a guitar, two bandmates and a music catalog of more than 25 years, indie label legend Ani DiFranco stumped on The State Theatre stage Saturday night, calling for political change during the stop on her “Vote Dammit!” tour.

“I think it gets darkest before the light,” said DiFranco, after praising Rep. John Lewis, of Georgia, and House Democrats’ recent sit-in protest over gun control. In the politically charged tour, it was a rare soapbox moment for the artist, who spent the rest of her hour and a half on stage connecting with fans through her music.

The small stage was a perfect venue for DiFranco, whose intimate and personal lyrics have captured generations of sympathizers, as evident in the mix of her fans.

But a larger venue wouldn’t have mattered. DiFranco has made a living standing out in a crowd, and her ability, through music, to establish intimacy — for each fan to feel a personal connection — carries over on the stage.

In between her trademark percussively played acoustic songs such as “little indie-girl manifesto ‘Napoleon’ ” and “Gravel,” both favorites with the crowd, DiFranco cracked jokes, shared stories and even took requests.

“You’re right, I should learn that song,” she said when stumped on one.

DiFranco opened with “God’s Country,” off her 1993 release “Puddle Dive,” but spent much of the night focused on new material from her upcoming album.

“Here’s a new song that someday might come out on a record,” said DiFranco, before “Alrighty.” She said delays were a result of being a mother of two.

Themes in DiFranco’s songs have shifted toward family life.

“So, my daughter is 9 now. I can tell you from my childhood that a lot off s--- starts happening when you’re 9,” said DiFranco, before playing “Careless Words,” off “Allergic to Water” (2014).

But her political voice remains. DiFranco approached issues such as women’s reproductive rights and political turmoil with songs such as “Which Side Are You On.”

“Democracy only works when people let their voice be heard. If every eligible voter in our society went out and voted, I think we would live in a much better world. And, with this tour, we’re trying to spread that message as best we can,” she recently told the CDT.

Surrounded by her family of fans, she ended the set with “Where is My Family Who Takes Care of Each Other,” and was joined for the encore by opening act Chastity Brown, before finishing with “32 Flavors,” her most recognized tune.

DiFranco’s band includes Todd Sickafoose on upright bass and Terence Higgins on the drums.

Brown, with her sultry voice, produced original tunes inspired by country, gospel and blues, and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Was Young When I Left Home.”