Living in Clip
Living in Clip is Ani DiFranco's first live album, and she seems to be making up for lost time: She's crammed several years worth of live performances into these two CDs. Most of these songs are performed by only three people: Andy Stochansky on drums, Sara Lee on bass, and DiFranco on acoustic guitar (although her trio is joined a couple of times by Doc Severinsen's Buffalo Philharmonic orchestra). Clearly, she doesn't need a big band to put on an electrifying show; her concert performances have long been as much a part of her low-profile legend as her self-financed studio albums. DiFranco has said that she considers herself to be primarily a live artist because her music relies on the intangibly active relationship between herself and her audience. When this live set came out in 1997, a number of critics remarked that it captured the energy of that relationship better than the albums she recorded in the isolation of the studio. That it does. DiFranco's public exhibition of emotion, and her self-deprecating banter in between songs, add to the feeling of openness that is essential to her music (essential both because she is an activist for the politics of honesty and because her personal vulnerability is necessary to keep those politics from seeming pedantic). What these recordings cannot do is transcend their own medium -- while they may catch a fraction of the dynamism of her live shows, they are still, after all, recordings. Ultimately, many of her studio performances make for better CDs simply because they were designed with CD players in mind. On her studio albums, the music is often more focused, the sound quality is better, and DiFranco conveys her emotions without any reliance on visual communication. Still, Living in Clip is a good document of DiFranco's relationship with her audience, and many of her angrier, sassier songs actually work better when there's a crowd around to participate in the vitriol. In any case, this collection of songs serves as an excellent best-of compilation for an artist who is sometimes a bit too prolific for her own good.