Once a huge teen pop star in her home country of Canada and then a huge adult pop/rock star in the U.S., Alanis Morissette has had an interesting and varied career. Traveling between pop, angry rock and the Zen spirituality of a flower child, she would seem to have morphed so much she would be a hopelessly divided personality.
But in that variety lays a common ground that makes her a consistent true artist. The other thing that has remained unfailing is her spot-on vocals, her inventive pronunciations of words, and her compelling lyrics and melodies.
All were showcased in her recent intimate show at The Fox Theatre in Pomona, California. Where she once played larger venues, her style and personality is a perfect match for smaller spaces which allow the audience to become part of her world and feel close to her artistry.
After a surprisingly simple yet electric opening act by her rapper/husband Mario "Souleye" Treadway, Alanis began her show offstage, teasing the audience by singing a few refrains of "I Remain," an obscure song from the "Prince of Persia" soundtrack. But it wasn't long before she barreled onto the stage in leather pants, black boots, sleeveless dark grey shirt, and a black vest. Her wild mane of hair was as it was when she burst onto the international scene 15-plus years ago and she had the energy to match.
Laying into a new song called "Woman Down," Morissette paced the stage like a wild animal, ready to pounce on the audience with her biting lyrics."Calling all woman haters, we've lowered the bar on the behavior that we will take. Come on now, calling all lady haters. Why must you vilify us? Are you willing to clean the slate? "
With such an extensive catalog of music, each Alanis show is fresh, alternating between albums, styles and themes. Being her first tour in a few years, her focus this time around is on her latest release "Havoc and Bright Lights." But she noticeably went back to the album that made her a superstar: "Jagged Little Pill."
Moving between the two, she performed new songs such as "Guardian," "Numb," and "Edge of Evolution," but also dipped back to her early years with "Right Through You," "Ironic," "Mary Jane," and "Head over Feet."
What's interesting is that while she was known for a while as the "angry rock chick," her subsequent albums have been more even-keeled with their admonitions and expressions. She quickly moved toward a more universal spirituality that took her to soaring heights of positivity and light, even when some of her songs were sad or introspective. It's the sign of a true artist when she can take the depressing and make it inspiring just the same.
And for this round of shows, she is clearly keeping things more upbeat. Sure, there is a twinge of melancholy in songs such as "So Unsexy" and the anger is ever-present with her now-classic "You Oughta Know" (which still seemed to affect her). But most of the songs had a lightness and encouragement to them. This optimistic approach was welcome and kept the crowd in high spirits and surrounded by the love she projects from the stage.
As she is known to do, her first encore slowed the night down with heartfelt acoustic versions of favorites such as Green Day's "Basket Case" and "Hand in My Pocket." This allowed her to connect even more with her audience, making it feel as though we were all sitting in her living room listening to a best friend talk about life.
While she didn't speak directly to the audience too much, her love for them and for her talented band was apparent and clearly appreciative. This is an artist who has gone through highs and lows in her career, and while she has never regained the success she had with "Jagged Little Pill" -- arguably one of the best rock albums of all time -- she continues to grow as an artist and expand her fan base. Young and old alike filled the small theater with a joy and reverence for a woman that has encouraged and touched them. Which is why the fact that she ended with her hit "Thank U" was completely apropos.