MILAN, Italy -- If her fans thought Ani DiFranco came to play an entirely acoustic
concert Thursday night, they had another thing coming.
But that was about the only disappointment those attending Thursday night's
performance by the Buffalo, N.Y., songwriter could have walked away with.
DiFranco, 28, who was playing her fourth Italian date as part of a month-long European
tour to end next week in Spain, will head to Amherst, Mass., to begin a U.S. tour April 9.
But she took the opportunity to let her mother country see the new DiFranco.
A packed crowd gathered at the "Magazzini Generali," an old warehouse turned disco.
Most were surprised to hear the new live sound.
But surprise soon turned to a palpable sense of excitement.
"This concert showed that probably she's not just a folk singer anymore," Claudio
Varanini said. The 29-year-old fan had seen DiFranco perform in Italy last year, when
she showcased her 1998 album Little Plastic Castle onstage.
After running through songs from that album during the first part of the concert, including
such folk-punk tunes as the title track (RealAudio excerpt)
and "Gravel," DiFranco took the show in a new direction as she performed selections
from her latest, Up Up Up Up Up Up.
Backed by a lineup that added keyboardist Julie Wolf and drummer Daren Hann to the
mix, along with her usual bassist, Jason Mercer, DiFranco displayed the groovier side of
her music. Wolf, with whom DiFranco recorded most of the album, spiced up her
customary acoustic sounds with the funky flavors of her Hammond organ.
Moving spiritedly onstage, beating her guitar and waving her hair, DiFranco performed
new versions of old classics, including a reggae-tinged "Anticipate," from 1991's Not
So Softly. She also performed a couple of as-yet unreleased songs, including
The folk-punk rocker closed the first part of the set with a long jam that led into the funky
rhythm of "Jukebox" (RealAudio excerpt), off her last
"We've done a lot of experimenting with instrumentation and stuff along the way. And I'm
sure I'll continue," DiFranco said in January about her new musical direction. "I find for
myself -- and I think it's an inherently human thing -- that you can only do one thing for so
long. So I played solo and toured solo for a whole bunch of years."
DiFranco said then that finding other musicians to play with and getting a band together
keeps her interested. With some backing, she added, the melodic possibilities grow and
the groove opens up.
The added instrumentation opened some of her fans up to the idea that DiFranco has
more to offer than folk-rock.
"She's more mature now," Varanini said.
During the hour-and-a-half performance, which ended with the lullaby
href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get- music/DiFranco,_Ani/Joyful_Girl_Danger_And_Uncertainty_Mix.ram">"Joyful Girl"
Girl"(RealAudio excerpt), from 1996's Dilate DiFranco talked about her
newfound enthusiasm for her Italian origins to the crowd.
"This is not the first time I've come to Italy," she said. "But I see your English is better than
my Italian. Actually, I didn't feel like coming home. But then I got a stronger feeling about
my roots. Being here is better than, say, being in Austria."