by Jason Harper
October 28, 2008
The Midland Theater by AMC
Better Than: Morissette’s “funny” cover of “My Humps”
By JORDAN EDWARDS
Photos by NICOLE REINERTSON
In the mid-1990s, before Britney and Christina slithered onto TRL, a female rock singer could get away with just being angry or introspective. And they could actually rock, not pop. Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, and a pre-MILF Sheryl Crow flooded Top 40 radio with barely a naval in sight. Queen of them all was Alanis Morissette. Her twitchy, don’t-fuck-with-me anthems raised the bar for the Lilith Fair Generation. Say what you will about her now, 1995’s Jagged Little Pill still stands up as a quintessential post-grunge album.
But then she went soft, and so did her album sales. A few minor hits and a couple acting gigs later, she’s playing for sit-down crowds like the one that showed up to the Midland Theater last night.
It’s been a solid decade since her prime, and she’s out supporting an album no one really seems to be aware of. But so what — only four songs from Flavors of Entanglement made it into the show, which is the way it should have been. Seats close to the stage went for 85 bucks. Was it worth it? Eh.
Maybe I’m ageist, but much of the material felt stale. Even the random words projected onto the backdrop in a faux-typewriter font—“stop,” “freedom,” “lost”—seemed to have been beamed in from an earlier time.
Still, the former almost Mrs. Ryan Reynolds sang her heart out and had fun doing it. During the opener, “Uninvited,” Morissette made it clear that she wasn’t about to phone this puppy in. During instrumental breaks, she ran wildly around the stage, her trademark mane of black hair sweeping in every direction as she eventually collapsed in front of the drum kit. What a free spirit.
As expected, a good chunk of Jagged was crammed into the 17-song set. “Head Over Feet” and an acoustic “Hand in Pocket” were okay, but lesser known tracks generated more passion. “All I Really Want” got butts off seats and the tender “Perfect” was the jewel of the night. Shame that one was never released as a single.
But not every number sounded fresh. “You Oughta Know,” the scorcher that broke her out of the Canadian teen scene, clomped along with a bad case of played-this-one-too-many-times. All the fierceness of the original recording was gone, and the band played it so slow, it felt like they were setting us up for a practical joke. “We’re just kidding,” I wanted the bassist to say.
Morissette nearly skipped over her middle three albums altogether. Songs like “So Unsexy” felt squeezed in for good measure. New additions to her catalogue, such as “Versions of Violence” and “Moratorium,” passed by anonymously. When it counted though, she delivered the goods. During the first encore, (Yes, there were two ... for a 90-minute show), “Ironic” roared like the day it first hit radio. The audience sang the first verse because, you know, we were part of the show. Then Morissette ripped the chorus like Barry Bonds laying into a 3-1 fastball.
The mostly Gen-X crowd loved what they saw — a solid collection of songs they occasionally sing in the shower, even when someone might be listening. She’s not the force she used to be, but Miss Alanis won’t be playing at the Ameristar Pavilion anytime soon.
Versions of Violence
All I Really Want
Not the Doctor
Not As We
Head Over Feat
You Oughta Know
Hand in Pocket
Personal Bias: My mother really likes Alanis. A lot. I would have taken her, but she had to work.
What a Ripoff: Parking in the P&L garage was supposed to cost $2 with my Chipotle validation. I ended up feeding the machine $11.
By the Way: When asked about acting during a local radio interview before the concert, Morissette said, “Improv is my fave.” You’re at the Eifel Tower, with Bill Clinton, in a snowstorm. Now, Go!