Over 15 years since the world-conquering success of Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette is still premium real-estate in live music terms – the queuing-around-the-blocksell-out crowd and half hour wait for the bar attest to that. With 7p.m. doors, no support act and an 8:35 stage time, the anticipation isn’t taken to Axl Rose levels but patience is certainly starting to wear thin by the time the lights finally go down.
All appears to be forgiven as the Canuk’s band finally appear and her voice is heard from the dressing room singing the first half of opening tune ‘Woman Down’. As she takes to the stage with trademark waist-length hair swinging and quickly punches into the obviously more familiar ‘All I Really Want’, the audience reaction threatens to overwhelm the house sound system. (It’s a surprisingly wide demographic, by the way; the expected late-20s/early-30s types who were there for JLP are definitely evident, but there’s many a decade or more either side).
A decidedly female “I love you Alanis!” answered with “I love you too!” gives a hint of the stadium-threatening scope of this comeback European tour – even by the first date Alanis is veering potentially dangerously close to Springsteen/Bon Jovi territory. The periodic injection of crowd-pleasers (almost exclusively from the first album – ‘You Learn’, ‘Ironic’, ‘Head Over Feet’) keeps people singing the lyrics back at the stage, despite the standing section remaining depressingly static, and non-JLP tunes such as ‘Artie’ provoke a noticeably tamer response.
The bass-heavy sound mix at the balcony certainly does the show no favours, but as this reviewer slipped out for a smoke an hour or so in he encountered a few fans leaving the stalls disappointed, most at some stage using the word ‘boring’. It’s a criticism hard to argue with by the latter third of the set, with the band seemingly going through the motions somewhat and there being considerably more mobiles and digital cameras than fists held aloft on the ground level.
This again maybe indicative of the ‘between-two-stools’ situation Morissette finds herself in; too much of a potential audience to turn down by doing smaller, almost certainly more gratifying ‘intimate’ shows, but not enough pull (and, on this showing, not enough stage presence) to go full-on arena rock. As a result, tonight wavers uncertainly between the two (even through the ‘One Hand In MyPocket’-‘Uninvited’-‘Thank You’ encore) and so comes across as crowd-pleasing, slick, but ultimately predictable and unmoving. An object lesson in how to put on a ‘three out of five’ show.