A record executive once pleaded with Alanis Morissette:
“For the love of God, could you write a party song?”
“I wrote a song about how awkward I was in social situations,” Morissette revealed during Friday’s concert in Morristown, to huge laughter.
At 40, with a husband and toddler, the Canadian singer still has plenty of revelations to share.
I had been curious about that. And more specifically, about how songs of Gen X Angst–from the 20th century’s Gilded Age, when Intel stock was flying high and everyone could afford obsessive introspection–would play now, nearly two decades after Jagged Little Pill exploded onto the music scene.
As far as the sold-out crowd at the Mayo Performing Arts Center was concerned, the streams-of-consciousness can keep on flowing. The audience supplied verses for a sing-along on Ironic, which no doubt was appreciated by Morissette, who joked about messing up (she used a different verb) the words to You Learn “left and right.”
“I have a lot of lyrics to remember,” she offered in her defense.
And this tour, dubbed “Intimate and Acoustic,” brings them front and center.
On Friday, two acoustic guitarists deftly complemented her songs with spare, nuanced arrangements that laid a foundation for her acrobatic voice to soar. If the category had been musical gymnastics, Morissette would have rated perfect 10s.
The word “piano” — piii-an-noooooooooooooo, delivered with joyful gusto during Hand in Pocket — was spectacular, reaching a note that even Morissette would be challenged to describe.
She accomplished these vocal feats perched on a stool all evening; a few harmonica solos were as close as she got to the mane-tossing, guitar-strutting persona of her early days.
The stripped-down production showcased her mesmerizing melodies. Heart of the House, from her Pill followup album, Former Infatuation Junkie, sounded lilting, rolling, sweet. Flinch had a moody, haunting quality. The 1,300-seat theater was church-silent for Uninvited.
Lovely guitar arpeggios underscored Head Over Feet. Nice ukulele touches adorned Mary Jane and percussive guitar-tapping propelled Not the Doctor forward.
This may sound like heresy to Alanis die-hards, but the performance was enjoyable without worrying too much about inner monologues, dialogues and soliloquies that have more detours than Jersey streets in paving season.
After all, as Morissette herself explained from the stage, the meaning of most of her compositions is her little secret. (The target of her wrath in You Oughta Know has fueled speculation for years.) Interpretations by the faithful constantly surprise her, she said.
“That song reminded me of my cat!” shouted a fan in one of Friday’s more bizarre exchanges.
Answers may be forthcoming, however. Morissette is working on her memoirs, a new album (culled from four journals, “it’s going to have 72 songs!” she quipped) and a musical inspired by Jagged Little Pill, which has sold 33 million copies worldwide.
Although, by her own admission, she has learned to embrace blissful silence every now and then, Morissette assured everyone that she retains ample stores of anger for these projects and beyond. Marriage and motherhood have not de-fanged her, she insisted.
Guess the party song will just have to wait.
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