ALANIS MORISSETTE @ PARAMOUNT THEATRE | 10/10/12
When Alanis Morissette first appeared at the Paramount last night, she didn't walk so much as float onto the stage, as if delivered by an invisible chariot. With a backing band that seemed too exuberant to believe, the singer whipped her hair as she belted out "I Remain." The few superfans in attendance stood, mouths collectively agape, presumably due to the actual in-the-flesh existence of the diva, more than her singing or the quality of her band's performance.
Morissette and her band, an accomplished batch of session musicians (including the son of luminary jazz guitarist Larry Coryell), ran through the first few songs like they had some place to be. Theirs was the bulldozer approach, playing a set that has been the same for the entire tour, which began way back in June. "Woman Down," "All I Really Want" and "You Learn" came and went quickly, with barely a spark of spontaneity or passion.
This is not an idle judgment. Every beat felt endlessly rehearsed, every note of the guitar solos predetermined. The banter was nonexistent, and Morissette herself appeared oblivious to her surroundings. The terse "Oh, I remember you, Denver!" between songs sounded like more of an indictment of herself than a cute come-on.
But for this crowd, any rhapsodizing about last night was secondary. They came to hear the hits. And the hits she delivered, playing nine of the thirteen tracks last night from her 1995 mega-superhit Jagged Little Pill. Let's not kid ourselves: That album sold nearly fifteen million copies in the U.S. alone, while her most recent release, this year's Havoc and Bright Lights, sold a flaccid 54,000. Any hint that this tour was about showcasing new material was erased after the first few lines of "Ironic." (P.S.: Good luck getting that tune unstuck from your head the rest of the day. You're welcome.)
Even the crowd in front of the stage seemed somewhat oblivious to Morissette's pleas-in-song and occasional feats of vocal grandeur, the latter of which are still impressive and very much intact. Typically at rock shows, the front-of-house fans would have been going apeshit at their idol. With the exception of a handful of superfans, these folks were sitting down.
Seriously. This was weird.
Morissette, thankfully, seemed oblivious to this, too. Apart from the heavy reliance on her mid-'90s hits (she has released no fewer than five albums since), this was the other proverbial elephant in the room. Be your own armchair sociologist -- blame it on the fact that her core audience has grown up and had kids since Jagged Little Pill and are therefore sedate, or whatever else you prefer -- but the lack of passion and the surplus of empty seats were undeniable.
Lesser performers, or those who have not been touring since they were teenagers (Morissette, 38, released her first album in 1991), might have wilted at this reality. But Morissette remained undaunted, flaunting her mezzo-soprano singing and wielding three (!) different glitter-painted electric guitars throughout the set. Dressed in green leggings and a black blouse to complement her bejeweled fingers, she occasionally whipped her hair while the band played immaculate renditions of "Uninvited" and "You Oughta Know."
Before the final tones of "Numb" had dissipated, ending the set, stage hands moved a barstool onto the stage. They moved the drums and guitars around, setting the audience up for perhaps the least-unexpected encore performance in recent memory. (Isn't the artist supposed to at least pretend that the set is over, and only then return when the crowd's applause demands it?) This was the final awkward segue of the evening: Fans, who had already begun dispersing, were not even clamoring for Morissette's return.
But then the band -- surprise! -- returned to the stage and ran through a few more songs, including "One Hand in My Pocket" and concluding, finally, with "Thank You." Good luck getting those songs unstuck from your head, too.
Personal Bias: I was a little embarrassed to realize how many of these songs I knew by heart. Talk about guilty pleasures.
Random Note: Morissette's husband, rapper Mario "MC Souleye" Treadway, opened.
By the Way: In a nod to the surprisingly large gay contingent at the show, Morissette changed a key lyric in "Ironic" to "It's meeting the man of my dreams/Then meeting his beautiful...husband."
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