Music » Critics' Picks

Ani DiFranco

Saturday, Feb. 23; Pageant

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Live, Ani DiFranco's gone from being a one-woman dynamo to the leader of a small orchestra; drums, horns, bass and keyboards now enrich her powerful lyrics, expressive guitar playing and playful scatting. The funk/folk/jazz arrangements still leave room for DiFranco's occasional solo, although the most obsessive of fans may be put off by the band's reinterpretations of some of her classic tunes, such as "32 Flavors" and "Shameless."

DiFranco's recent release is perhaps her most ambitious, a thematic double album titled Revelling/Reckoning that showcases her growing experience and (mostly) tempered rage. These examinations of personal relationships and divisions betray not only DiFranco's social consciousness but her compassion and sardonic humor. The Revelling disc flexes her fresh production skills and sonic experimentations, whereas Reckoning's much quieter tone requires the kind of attention that usually interferes with dancing, a factor that might keep these songs off the setlist. First-timers, be forewarned: DiFranco's pubescent disciples can turn her concerts into cultlike encounters. But DiFranco definitely earns such devotion, throwing herself into the hyperactive mixture of singing, laughing, dancing -- and making participants wish the night wouldn't end.

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