During her Nov. 4 stop at The Vic Theatre in Chicago, Ani DiFranco explained that she learned a thing or two during her last tour through America’s south.
“I came home from that tour and I sort of pictured myself wagging my mommy finger at audiences everywhere we went, like, “You’d better vote now. Did you vote,’” she said in a silly, schoolmarm voice explaining that, upon reflection, she had been rethinking her approach to getting out the vote.
This time she was ready to inspire joy, love, and civic engagement with a setlist full of songs about the right to choose, the justice system, and the power of voting. Joined by her longtime bassist/keyboardist Todd Sickafoose and Jharis Yokley, a talented drummer playing his very first show with the trio, DiFranco opened with a playful rendition of “Shy” before cutting straight to the point with “Do or Die.”
“If you think your vote doesn’t matter/Then you’re not paying attention/Yeah, everything they do, they do to keep you from their invention,” she sang.
Later, DiFranco referenced the good news regarding the recent pardoning of those convicted on federal marijuana possession charges leading into “’Tis of Thee.” She added, “It’s a start. When they put all those opioid pushers in jail, then we’ll know.”
“Baby Roe” was also a moment to reflect on what’s at stake this election cycle. DiFranco shared that she was inspired to write the song after reading The Family Roe: An American Story by Joshua Prager, who she referred to as “an awesome human-being.” The justice system moves slowly and the baby at the center of Roe v. Wade was born before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the right to have an abortion back in 1973. DiFranco explained how the book follows up with the story of the now-adult Baby Roe who is, in fact, in favor of the right to choose.
Songs from “back in the day” like “Napoleon,” “Anticipate,” and “Dilate” encouraged the most magical auras to emanate from the crowd as everyone sang together, taking the opportunity to enjoy the present moment with friends new and old. You could feel each fan’s associations with the music – good times mingling with heartbreak – swirling through the air as new lifelong memories were being formed in that very moment.
The Righteous Babes Revue – Gracie and Rachel, Pieta Brown, and Jocelyn Mackenzie – who opened the show by playing a selection of each other’s songs, joined DiFranco during her set to play “Revolutionary Love” and fan favorite “32 Flavors.” Rachel Ruggles’ emotive violin and the tender vocal harmonies of all the label-mates added a richness to each song.
It was a joyous night during which music once again proved its power to inspire change. DiFranco let her songs speak for themselves, but she couldn’t resist offering a few strong words to encourage everyone to vote in the midterm election on Nov. 8.
“You do you, but if you don’t vote I’m coming to your house and I’m gonna fight you,” she said, adding with a smile, “That’s all.”
Check out photos from the Vic Theatre show featuring Ani DiFranco and the Righteous Babes Revue below and don’t forget to vote this Tuesday. Future tour dates and more can be found at Anidifranco.com.
(Photos by Laurie Fanelli)