In a crowd of poseurs—drunken college students pretending to have the time of their lives, 40-something couples in age-inappropriate outfits—Alanis Morissette is just herself: brilliant but comfortable, jilted but on the mend, sad but laughing. And she must be tired. Not in the sense that her performance last Thursday night lacked enthusiasm. In fact, quite the opposite.
Ninety minutes after the show’s start time (and 30 minutes after an hour-long set by opening act Alexi Murdoch), Morissette, a tiny, darkly clad figure in a sea of tall band mates, emerged to the booming electronic sounds of “Versions of Violence.” A track from her latest album, Flavors of Entanglement, with an eerie, almost frantic rock ‘n’ roll pace, “Versions of Violence” had Morissette galloping in her black boots from one end of the stage to the other. It was a good start, but one can’t help but feel like the show’s beginning was really 90 minutes and 13 years in coming.
Nineteen flavors of Alanis Morissette: Ms. Ironic kept her edge during a set of hits and new material at the Charlottesville Pavilion.
A veteran of angry chick music, Morissette nabbed four Grammy awards for her 1995 debut album, Jagged Little Pill, and “You Oughta Know”—her 11th song in Thursday’s 19-song set—became every girl’s post-break-up anthem. To make no mention of “All I Really Want”—number three— and “Ironic”—number 18, during which she replaced “wife” with “husband” in one of the song’s best lines. These were the real crowd pleasers, but the meaning of the show (and perhaps Morissette’s vulnerability, as most of her albums are a sort of dumping ground for emotional reconciliation) was in the newer songs.
Morissette picked up her own glittery electric guitar for “Citizen of the Planet,” a song with the familiar hard edge of “Versions,” but the same reflective lyricism found in “Thank U,” a track from 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, which ended the show. The 34-year-old singer slowed down the pace of “Moratorium,” the song from which Flavor gets its title, and pulses of light illuminated the stage during beats of the chorus.
Truly, light played a very important role in Morissette’s show, from the seizure-inducing flashes during “Uninvited” to a projected image of orchids during “Simple Together.” These beams, of course, were probably used to give the show a little visual interest—since, certainly, the sound for the first few songs was more bass than recognizable vocals—but a true Alanis fan might speculate that the illumination on stage is actually part of the artist’s grander metaphor of the healing process. But then again, a true Alanis fan oughta know to leave the heavy thinking to Morissette herself. If Thursday’s show is any indication, she seems to have it all under control.