Live Review // Ani Di Franco at the Manchester Cathedral, 20/9/2014

There’s something about Ani Di Franco and churches. Of course, her very own label Righteous Babe Records is based in a former church in Buffalo, New York but for tonight her venue was Manchester Cathedral for what was a very good night of music.  Just a stone’s throw (in a good breeze) away from Salford, where The Lowry Centre was her stage a few years back,  a queue was slowly forming outside the beautiful Manchester Cathedral  of dedicated fans. Can you guess who was at the front? It wasn’t us, but we were certainly near…

On the last occasion we caught Ani live at The Lowry Centre she was solo, just herself and her many guitars and, although it was a fine show, you couldn’t help feel the venue lacked the requisite warmth for a Di Franco gig. Rectifying that considerably on this occasion was the presence of a band and a beautiful venue that gave generously in many ways. As soon as the doors opened there was a sense of warmth and greatness already present in the dimly lit venue. And once the music started, announced perfectly by the self-confessed (and fittingly out and proud) “queer, feminist vicar” it was obvious that this would be a performance with a lot more comfort.

But before we got Ani Di Franco, we had excellent support from Shabsi Mann, who set the evening off with an interesting combination of double bass and guitar based songs that sat well in the setting. Intermingled with thanks and stories, the London duo gave a set that was short enough to make you want more and hopefully we’ll see them again very soon…

Following a brief pause in proceedings, Ani Di Franco & band appeared on stage unannounced and immediately silenced the crowd into a roaring welcome. First song up was Angry Anymore, followed up by 78% H2O and the usual crowd interaction soon followed, with topics from organised religion, children, education and much more gone through as well as a pleasing moment where the artist asked for questions and got more than a few!

In terms of the songs played, we got a good selection of later releases and the odd earlier song and highlights included an animated version of fan favourite Gravel, an encore of 32 Flavors that got the audience singing along in unison and a selection of well received songs from upcoming release Allergic To Water, including the lovely Rainy Parade and All That Woe. If you’ve ever been a Di Franco gig before then you know what to expect, if not then it’s a gig experience to be recommended with an atmosphere that brings warmth to the music and one of the most diverse fan bases of any artist.

We’re sure that Ani would probably agree that the gig went well indeed, with all the warmth, excellent song writing and vocal social commentary you’d expect but then again there is something special about this particular venue after all.

To quote one member of the audience: ‘Hallelujah!’ (Di Franco's reply: 'Amen, sister!') 

Make sure to catch Ani Di Franco on tour. You won’t regret it…

(S.Gahan - Words and Photography) 

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