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Catching up to Ani and Andrea in one week

By David Espinoza

Ani DiFranco and Andrea Echeverry of Aterciopelados probably haven't met each other, though they certainly have a lot in common. For close to 10 years, both artists have consistently challenged and reshaped the parameters of rock & roll on their own terms--one just happens to sing in English, the other in Spanish. I was lucky enough to catch both of them within a week's time.

Playing to a near-capacity show at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium last week, DiFranco displayed all the confidence and ability of a woman who's long since proven that independence from corporate record labels does not mean a career regelated to obscurity. Older fans may miss the days when a shaved-headed Ani got onstage with only a guitar and her voice, but given that she has produced roughly one album per year since 1990, it's no wonder she's opted for a change of pace and added drums, bass, keyboard and horns to her sound. Even so, the amount of special disco and psychedelic lighting effects used for the show might cause some fans to wonder if Ani is going Vegas.

With so many albums under her belt, DiFranco used Tuesday's show to focus on her latest album, the two-CD Revelling/Reckoning (her first two-CD set was 1997's Living in Clip), a much stronger effort than the previous two, Up Up Up Up Up Up and To the Teeth, with a jazz-funk spoken word styling that's garnering considerable college radio attention. Still, the biggest cheers came when DiFranco delved into her most pop-oriented album to date, 1998's Little Plastic Castle, with the song "Independence Day" being the only tune on which she ditched the band for a single guitar. Personally, while DiFranco's work is only comparable to the likes of Joni Mitchell, she has yet to match 1995's Not a Pretty Girl--judging by her performance Tuesday, I definitely think she still has some tricks up her sleeves.

The last time I saw Colombia's Aterciopelados, it was at a Catalyst-sized club somewhere near Hayward, where the stage was 3 feet off the ground and maybe 10 feet across. But that's NorCal, and when it comes to rock en español, Southern Califas has no competition. As the middle act of a four-band Planeta Rock bill at the Los Angeles Greek Theatre (I'm guessing 5-foot stage and at least 40 feet across) on July 7, Aterciopelados offered only a tease of its vast repertoire of songs from its five albums.

If Colombia has ever had a hippie/punk-rock/folk icon, it's bandleader and singer Andrea Echeverry--call her a wonderful hybrid of DiFranco's granola-ness and Perry Farrell's kookiness. With a stage adorned with fuzzy peace signs and red valentine hearts, Echeverry, backed by bass, guitar, drums, percussion and keyboards, whipped through the first few tracks off of this year's Gozo Poderoso as well as a techno version of Aterciopelados' 1994 punk-derived hit "Florecita Rockera." The longhaired and lanky Echeverry is a pro when it comes to crowd pleasing, and had the audience sing back to her the chorus of her biggest hits.

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From the July 11-18, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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