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At The Helix, Dublin
Anybody who came hoping for an extended howl of cathartic defiance will have come away unfulfilled. This was a subdued performance from the non-pareil mistress of politically-charged, polymorphous folk-funk.
Eamonn McCann, 25 Nov 2004
For your untouchable face, for living in the first place – fuck you.
Second day of the second Bush term, second song in, DiFranco hit the note to roars of approbation from an almost-full house. And that was about it for politics.
Anybody who came hoping for an extended howl of cathartic defiance will have come away unfulfilled. This was a subdued performance from the non-pareil mistress of politically-charged, polymorphous folk-funk. The audience would have taken a couple of hours of unaccompanied rant. The audience would have taken anything. That was the problem. This was audience as in audience-with-television-celebrity tribute. Can’t be totally gratifying, playing to people for whom you know you can do nothing wrong.
Wrong venue, too. Terrific sound, every breath she took audible in the top balcony back row. But arenas with top balconies aren’t made for passionate intimacy. Too big, too comfortably upholstered, too sedate altogether. Only on the encore did a dozen or so daring souls defy house rules tentatively to dance in the aisle.
It helped that she finished, after under an hour on-stage, with back-catalogue certainties, ‘Grovel’ and ‘Both Hands’. The new material she’d majored on in her main set was hugely impressive, the precision of her vocal delivery astonishing, guitars just-about surviving unrestrained assault and battery.
But the reverence it was received with precluded partying.
For some of us, DiFranco is the most important singer in the world, the gutsy genius of grass-roots rebellion, the brightest most beautiful light in the gathering dim. But she’s not a goddess. Hyper-dulia is wholly inappropriate.
Maybe she was just pissed off, on the day that was in it. But it could be, too, that a fan-base which assembles regularly to renew vows of fealty rather than let rip stultifies the spirit eventually.