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Weekend Preview May 19-24
Bob Dylan tributes, Deborah Voigt, Tom Paxton, Bill Kirchen, John Kirk and Trish Miller

Celebrating Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday in Style
Paying tribute to the greatest rock songwriter ever

FILM REVIEW: In a Better World and Of Gods and Men
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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Deborah Voigt Headlines Mahaiwe Gala
Opera star to sing arias, show tunes on Saturday, May 21

Famed Spiritual Teacher to Speak on Nonviolence
Mother Maya in free talk at Sruti Yoga in Great Barrington, Mass., on Friday May 20 at 7pm

Special Effects Wizard to Be Honored by Film Festival
Doug Trumbull to be Feted by BIFF

Weekend Preview May 12-16
Cultural Highlights of the Berkshire Weekend

Talk about a small world
Elaine and I grew up together, but only just recently met....

Berkshire Living to Cease Publication
A Farewell from Publisher Michael Zivyak

twiGs Branches Out
Lenox boutique launches new e-tail site

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy

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[CONCERT REVIEW] Ani DiFranco at the Colonial Theatre


Photo by Rhea Anna/Courtesy Ani DiFranco

Pittsfield, Mass.
April 21, 2009

by Seth Rogovoy

(PITTSFIELD, 4.21.09) -- At the Colonial Theatre last night, Ani DiFranco demonstrated what fans and followers have long known: the diminutive singer-songwriter packs a powerful punch in concert, her original folk songs an idiosyncratic blend of Talking Heads worldbeat, Maceo Parker-laced funk, Pete Seeger-influenced politics, all adding up to one of the most unique voices in contemporary popular music.

Dressed in baggy slacks and a wife-beater T-shirt the better to show off toned biceps rivaling those of Michele Obama's, DiFranco moved and glided as funky as her music bounced.

Just the lift of a shoulder, the shrug of the head, the kick of a foot, and a fleet, moonwalk-like two steps backwards were all part of the folk-funk package.

With a packed house full of fans, DiFranco took the opportunity to debut a bevy of new songs, several of which addressed the ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency,
including one, presumably called "Yes We Can," that could well function as the National Anthem of the moment.

DiFranco peppered her set with political songs, love songs, and songs of restlessness and regret. A new number, ostensibly protesting nuclear power, showcased why DiFranco stands out among the crowd of political-minded protest singers. Like Bob Dylan before her, DiFranco doesn't ascribe to the Phil Ochs school of preaching-to-the-choir reportage; rather, as in this case, she finds a new angle to address her concerns.

So rather than rant and rave about the dangers of nuclear waste, instead she wrote a song in praise of the atom as the essence of Creation, making her protest more of a spiritual crusade than one of knee-jerk partisan politics. For her, nuclear power violates the dignity of the atom itself, either as a natural phenomena or one of G-d's building blocks (take your pick).

Performing with an acoustic quartet with a well-balanced sound at the Colonial, DiFranco was a dynamic guitarist -- indeed, it's easy to overlook her amazing talent as a musician.

DiFranco has defined her own approach to guitar, which is as impressive as such singular stylists as the late Michael Hedges, jazz-folk icon Joni Mitchell, and the Who's Pete Townshend. At times she made her acoustic guitar sound like a banjo or a ukelele.

Likewise, as a composer she is head and shoulders above even the best singer-songwriters, not content to write in conventional forms, but filling her songs with musical twists and turns, bridges and tunnels, allowing the music to speak as strongly as her intense lyrics, delivered in her trademark husky alto with a hint of natural vibrato.

DiFranco was accompanied with acoustic bass, drums, and vibes, the last adding an ethereal dimension to her music. She is a generous performer with a gracious, disarming personality that, while strong-spoken, eschews preachiness in favor of sly, humorous observation: "We are seventy-eight percent water/Even our broken hearts."

Seth Rogovoy is Berkshire Living's editor-in-chief and award-winning critic-at-large.

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