I have been an Alanis (and Alanis Morissette) fan for nearly 20 years and in that time, I have only seen her in concert once and that was at Thursday night’s show at the Centre for Performing Arts. And to my surprise, the entire experience was conflicting.
Before her Jagged Little Pill album hit the scene, I can remember watching a teenage Alanis on YTV’s “You Can’t Do That on Television” with her short hair and cute smile. A few years later, in 1992, she went on to become a dance-pop star with a self-titled EP who’s first release “Too Hot” did incredibly well and turned this YTV alumni into a Canadian pop star. To this day, I can still sing all of the lyrics to that song. Then, that all changed. In ’95 she released Jagged Little Pill after a turbulent and messy breakup with Joey from Full House (Joey? Really?! I remember being so shocked by that). And that album saw the cute, curly-haired Alanis turn into the angsty, anger-driven Alanis Morisette who went on to worldwide fame.
That night’s show opened with a song I’d never heard before, “I Remain” (apparently from the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time soundtrack), a song that she sang off-stage, which then led immediately into “Woman Down” from her most recent release Havoc and Bright Lights. I know nothing of this album and I discovered that most of the audience knew nothing of it too. And how do I know that? Because for the first two songs, a few people in the crowd stood and danced along with Alanis, her band and the seizure-inducing light show that accompanied them. But when the third song “What I Really Want” started, just about every single person in that room stood up and cheered. And it was like that for every Jagged song after that. Sit down for unrecognizable song. Stand for anything from Jagged Little Pill. Repeat. Check out the playlist in the photos; Alanis is a smart woman and must have known the crowd she’d be playing to that night, because most of those songs are from that album.
Seeing Alanis play was like meeting up with an old friend that you envied and loved and thought was the coolest person back in the day. She still looked the same with her long hair parted down the middle and the way she moves on stage – none of that had changed. Even her vocal range was exactly how I remembered it with all the angst and emotion hitting all the right spots. If I could have turned off the music and imagined what she was singing, she was the same Alanis from all those albums I loved from Jagged all the way up to Flavors of Entanglement; yep. I owned them all, despite the spelling mistake in the latter. I even own her tongue-in-cheek version of “My Humps”. To me, Alanis could do no wrong. However, turn on the music and the lights and Thursday’s show felt polished in a way that I hadn’t expected. When she played “You Oughta Know”, it sounded the same, but it was missing that dirty guitar riff that used to give me goosebumps. Perhaps it’s the result of playing these songs live with so many people on stage, and maybe if I’d seen her play back in the day, it would’ve been a different story. This was the old friend that I remembered, but she was a bit different and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
Don’t get me wrong; I had a good time at the show. I loved hearing and watching Alanis play, especially at the end when she did “Uninvited” and then came back onto the stage twice for encores. The first for acoustic versions of “Hand in My Pocket”, “So Pure”, and “Everything”, and the second to play “Thank You”. When she tours again on the casino circuit in 20 more years, I will see her again and again, because I’m a sucker for nostalgia and as much as I wasn’t thrilled with every part of the show, Alanis is a fantastic entertainer and in my mind, can still do no wrong.
Photos © Selena McLeod