Ani DiFranco adored, and impressive |

Ani DiFranco adored, and impressive

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Ani DiFranco performs in a sold-out show Wednesday at Belly Up Aspen. (Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN ” Ani DiFranco’s songs are still focused very much around herself, and how she is perceived. On Wednesday night at Belly Up Aspen, in her first Aspen appearance in 13 years, one of the singer-songwriter’s more notable lines announced exactly what she was doing at the moment, and spoke to the media glare that has followed her throughout her career: “Imagine that I’m onstage under a watchtower of punishing light,” she sang to a fantastically responsive crowd in “Imagine That.”

Later, in another crowd favorite, “32 Flavors,” in which she defies being narrowly or simplistically defined, she sang, “I am a poster child with no poster/I am 32 flavors and then some.”

Both those songs are from earlier in DiFranco’s career, but the several new songs she performed also tended to show that her writing is much oriented toward herself ” her declarations, her revelations, her protests. And this is understandable, and as it should be. As she demonstrated ” musically, lyrically and in her personality ” this character of Ani DiFranco is a deep well, and the 37-year-old musician has only been dipping into it for 17 years.

For most of the crowd ” largely female, and distinguished by the lesbian couples in attendance ” the main draw is DiFranco’s persona, and the way she projects herself in her lyrics. No doubt, she is a magnetic personality, railing against a patriarchal society with a fierce voice and compelling wordplay. When she swung into spoken poetry mode, with the revolutionary-fomenting “Coming Up,” the crowd went nearly silent. Although anger doesn’t seem to be as big a part of DiFranco’s makeup as it once was ” it’s probably hard to be mad when you’re confronted, night after night, with adoring fans ” when she did release her bile on the raging “Napoleon” (“everyone is a f—ing Napoleon”), it was probably the emotional highlight of the show.

Just as compelling is DiFranco, the musician. Playing an array of guitars, all acoustic, she showed herself in the top rank of pickers. Not only is she technically skilled, but it’s hard to think of another guitarist whose personality is so well expressed in an instrument. DiFranco plays her guitars with her long fingernails wrapped ini black tape ” breaking a fingernail early in the show was cause for a humorous encounter with some glue and a towel ” and the result is a spiky, percussive, unpredictable, loud sound. On this tour, DiFranco shows an overall musical vision by surrounding herself with a distinctive, jazz-leaning backing trio of upright bassist Todd Sickafoose, vibist Mike Dillon and drummer Allison Miller.

One hopes that, for all the adoration showered on DiFranco for her strident stances and charisma, that her musicianship was not overlooked.