By Molly Snyder Edler   Published Mar 15, 2002 at 5:29 AM

Punk folkstress Ani Difranco ended the nearly sold-out show last night at the Eagles Ballroom with the song "Joyful Girl," but from the moment she stepped foot on the stage in her platform shoes, there was joy bouncing off the walls.

Ani had a lot to say about the Eagles Ballroom, where she claims to have played "12 or 13 times." She referred to the ballroom as "the big-ass donut" and repeatedly ripped on the poor sound, signature of the ballroom. (Anyone who's been to the Eagles Ballroom is aware that often it's impossible to understand a word of what musicians are saying.)

But one thing Ani didn't rip on was Milwaukee. A native of Buffalo, New York, she said, "(There's) some kind of kindred spirit between Buffalo and Milwaukee ... Yesterday we were prowling around Milwaukee and I got a familiar feeling. It's like 'Whatcha wanna do tonight?' ... 'I dunno. Let's drink some beer.'"

Beer wasn't the only intoxicant Ani referenced during her two-hour show. She admitted to eating "magic cookies" during the day-off that she spent in Milwaukee. "I'm kind of attracted to the idea that reality is completely subjective ... All this sh*t is what you decide it is," she said, to a roaring audience of predominantly young females.

Technically, Ani is touring in support of her latest effort, a double album called "Revelling/Reckoning." She played a couple of cuts from this new album, including "Grey" and "Ain't That the way." But with 14 albums (plus a few EPs and two collaborations with storyteller Utah Philips) she has a lot of material to draw from. And she drew well, performing old favorites "Worthy," "Out of Habit," "Not A Pretty Girl," and "Firedoor." She also splashed the stage with opening song "Freakshow," as well as "The Diner," "Hat Shaped Hat" "Two Little Girls," "Loom," "Pulse," a couple of new tunes, and three poems: "My IQ," (excerpts from) "Pulse" and a new poem inspired by September 11th. (To read all of this amazing piece, click here.

Dramatic facial expressions, political statements, and thick dreadlocks flapping against her back all contributed to last night's superb performance. Ani Difranco, and the four other musicians in her band, gave the audience exactly what they showed up for: a meaningful, musical experience.

Go the distance for Difranco; she's always worthy.