Ani DiFranco – Atlanta 10/8/03

Ani DiFranco
Atlanta 10/8/03

Live albums are an interesting breed. Often geared toward diehard fans or those hoping to experience a performance without actually being there, live albums have a fairly limited appeal as opposed to a studio recording. Many artists may never release a live album, and their fans will frequently turn to bootlegging – either illegally or with the blessing of the musician. There are many people who pine away for the next live disc or bootleg to surface for their favorite bands.

Ani DiFranco has released two live, double-disc albums in the past. They have done quite well with her fan base and even received some great reviews among critics. Both of those releases were compilations of songs from a number of shows. They were the best of the best, so to speak, hand-picked by DiFranco as her favorites. Each album was a great boon for fans, but pulling songs from such a large bank of recordings removed the feeling of listening to a full concert.

This time around, Ani DiFranco took a different approach and has begun releasing official bootlegs of entire shows. The first release was Atlanta 10/8/03 in July 2004 and a second, Sacramento 10/25/03, is next up. These albums were a surprise for fans – there was no buzz about them before the first showed up, and they are only available via DiFranco’s website or at shows. Apparently there will be a new one released every six weeks or so.

Atlanta 10/8/03’s setlist includes 15 songs featuring a mix of old and new material. Ani reaches back to older albums such as 1995’s Not a Pretty Girl for the opener “Shy,” which has long been a concert staple. She also includes plenty of newer material, including tracks like “Evolve,” the title track for her 2003 effort. After songs from other older albums, including “Two Little Girls” (Little Plastic Castle) and “Your Next Bold Move” (Revelling/Reckoning), she also offers up currently unreleased material including “Subdivision.” This song has been getting a lot of play in DiFranco’s current tour and is focused not only on her hometown (Buffalo, NY) but also on her take of American life in general.

Since most of the setlist for Atlanta 10/8/03 is made up of songs the average fan has likely heard before, the biggest selling point of this release – other than the chance of hearing something new – is the sound quality. While her previous live releases were good, this one is far superior. Any background noise – such as screaming fans – is nearly nonexistent. The only place you will really find any noise is at the very end of a song or some place it has clearly intentionally been left in. Also, the fact that this show was solo and features only Ani and her guitars means there is very little to detract from the main event.

Rest assured that the release of these official bootlegs will not derail Ani DiFranco’s studio efforts. The last time I saw her perform, she debuted a few tracks from a forthcoming album due in early 2005. Still, Atlanta 10/8/03 is the closest you can come to actually being at a show until the next time her tour makes it to your neck of the woods. With a cheap sticker price, this official bootleg is well worth it for rabid fans that just can’t get enough and wish to have a complete collection. If you don’t already list Ani DiFranco as one of your favorites, this release is not likely to change your mind.