| 1.8°C Dublin

Review: Ani DiFranco

IF you were to look up the definition of a grassroots independent artist in a dictionary, there really should be an accompanying picture of Ani DiFranco.

The 40-year-old singer from Buffalo, New York, is poised to release no less than her 19th studio album. Her work rate is quite frankly astonishing.

Since her eponymous debut in 1990, she's also managed to release close to as many live albums. She runs her own record company, Righteous Babe Records, and tours the world extensively. It's a testament to her staunchly loyal and committed fan base that she can play the Concert Hall with little fanfare or fuss.

In less capable hands, this would be a politically correct folky snoozefest. Two things help her pull it off -- her startling staccato style guitar playing technique and a rich, pleasant voice that nicely steers the proceedings away from being too preachy or po-faced.

Her lyrical content is unashamedly political, revealing her pedigree as a musical feminist icon. She performs a pro-choice song that would inevitably prompt uproar if played on national television.

Fortunately, she's also blessed with a chatty raconteur wit and penchant for telling rambling stories without veering into boring territory. She complains that she's leaving for a ferry straight after the show and hasn't even seen a Guinness tap.

"It's up to you guys to give me the complete Dublin experience," she says. Her fans dutifully oblige, whooping and cheering her every move.

Songs about racism, sexism and war mightn't sound like ideal Saturday night fare, but DiFranco manages to inject enough sparkle into them to shine. It's an impressive feat to make the Concert Hall feel like a folk club armed with just a voice and a guitar.

She saves the best wine for last. A new song contains the killer line, "If you're not getting happier as you get older, then you're f***ing up." It nails her sense of humour and insight that makes her much more than just another protest singer.

Irish Independent