Alanis Morrissette, singing Ironic, the first song she has actually heavily encouraged audience participation in, and her mic goes out. The audience had already been doing like 50-75% of the song without her so the band just continued and no one noticed until it came back a few seconds later.
It’s it Ironic?
Don’t cha think?
Last night, I went and saw Alanis Morrissette perform at the Illinois State Fair. In traditional fashion, I’m going to ramble on a bit about the whole night’s experience. For the sake of simplicity, you can get a bit more highlights about my love of Alanis in my recent post about Jagged Little Pill.
A couple of years ago, I almost went to see Alanis and Garbage during their tour together, She was going to be in Indianapolis, and I have family over there I could see, I checked into tickets and they were, a bit more than I cared to spend, for where they were located. Plus it was still kind of “The middle of COVID” so it seems like maybe it was best to just not. Then a few months ago, she was announced as coming to the Illinois State Fair this year. Each year the fair has a large show, I think every night, maybe races a few nights. I hopped on over and signed up for her mailing list to get in the early sales window. My wife wasn’t interested and my brother was interested but that fell through. Since it was just me, I bought tickets for the standing area on the track. Later I learned the fair offers a “Pre Show Party” for pretty cheap, which includes early entry and a parking pass. That seemed like a good deal, so I spring for that.
I’m glad I did.
I opted to go right to the “wait in line” part of the Pre Show Party after buying a bottle of water (which cost me more than an entire case of water normally, but hey, it was some charity group running it). I was like, 25 in line I think, and people kept wandering out and back for more drinks. The only other time I’ve been to a show was like ten years ago for Toby Keith, my wife and daughter wanted to go. This was my view.
When we went in, I had a notion that most people would pile in on the right side of the stage since we were let in on the right, so I shuffled around past to the left side of the stage and ended up pretty much right in the center, I was next to the dude who had been at the front of the line. So this was my view.
Around an hour later, and some light rain, which threatened to become worse, the opening act started. I actually didn’t realize there was an opening act, nothing really mentioned it.
I don’t know what it is about opening acts, but it’s like they are required to do SOME cover songs. I don’t mind covers, but her set included I think 3 covers. Oddly enough, I could see the setlist taped to the floor and the second song listed, “Come as You Are”, was NOT a cover of Nirvana. It’s was a Tenille Townes track. She did do covers of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and The Beatle’s Come Together.
I am not familiar enough with her song’s to remember what most of them were called and Setlist.fm isn’t helping me here. Funny enough, I am pretty sure I have heard her music before because Somebody’s Daughter was very familiar when they played it.
For the most part, I enjoyed her set. They work the crowd well and she was pretty chatty the whole time. The whole band really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Based on her style and twangyness, she is a country singer, but it’s a very “Rock and roll” kind of country.
After the usual “tear down and swap over” it was time for the main event.
Pretty much as expected, most of the setlist consisted of songs from Jagged Little Pill. The recent tour was for the 25th anniversary of the album, and most of her well known songs are from that album. In face, the setlist included ALL of Jagged Little Pill, including the hidden track, Your House. It also included several of her other more well known singles as well as some of the less known tracks, though many of those were simply, brief interlude moments, and not the whole songs. I’ve embedded a neat little Setlist from Setlist.fm, but it’s deceiving because 7 of the tracks (Hands Clean, Diagnosis, So Unsexy, Nemesis, Losing the Plot, Sympathetic Character, I Remain) were not full songs.
Anyway, the show, was awesome. I can’t say it was the best show I’ve been to, but it was damn good. The music was of course, all very very familiar, but at the same time, as is usually the case, the live versions are different and just generally better. There was so much going on at times too, it was kind of hard to know what to choose to focus on, there was a large screen that was showing some interesting videos to go along with each song. Alanis herself, dancing around stage quite a bit, including that sort of, long stride walk she does (I’ve seen it in some other videos).
Then also the band. Man, the band was amazing, especially the bass player, Cedric LeMoyne, but I’ll say also especially the lead guitarist, Jason Orme. I am assuming lead, there was also a second guitarist, Julian Coryell, playing on several interesting looking small guitars, but he seemed, I dunno, less active in general, not just in stage presence, but also in his playing. I may be totally wrong though. The drums, Victor Indrizzo, and keyboard, Michael Farrell, were also very good, though of course, the nature of both of those means they are quite a bit less showy.
I do want to throw out my one complaint, since it’s related, the rest of the band was very often, in the dark. I couldn’t remember their names, though they were introduced, and finding them was actually kind of difficult. Or at least, it took a lot more work than expected. Like, I love you Alanis, but the these guys were amazing, maybe give them a little bit of that spotlight. Looking at a few other videos this doesn’t always seem to be the case so I almost wonder if there was something going on with the venue’s lighting, though this wasn’t an issue in the Tenille Townes set and if they needed more lights, they could have dropped the weird back of the stage spotlight that basically just, were blinding.
Back to the show though, and the band, that bass player, Cedric, dude was absolutely amazing. He had several moments where he did little solo parts and his playing was great, his stage presence, what you could see, was great as well. I am going to have to check out his previous/other band Remy Zero a bit to see if any of what he was doing here shines through there. The band name actually sounds familiar, so maybe I’ve heard of them at some point.
Alanis herself was amazing as well. There is a phrase “Eat the Mic”, which is to say, hold the mic so close you’re lips are touching it, because you’re too quite. I see this literally quite a bit on some of the videos I’ve seen of artists. Alanis, does the opposite, by a long shot. I mean, it’s kind of her entire style, the very loud screaming sort of singing, but she often had that mic feet away and she still came through fine. I do wonder a bit why she uses a corded mic though, as much as she is back and forth across the stage, it seems like the cord is kind of a hazard, plus cords are prone to failure with that much moving around (they actually swapped out her mic about 3 songs in, and it completely cut out during Ironic briefly).
I appreciate the use of some of the lesser known tracks as interludes. Understandably, she would go get a big drink between almost every song, and often would do a sort of, subdued little bit from a song, just standing in place near the back. I don’t know a ton of her feeling on it all, but i suspect that after 25 years, it gets a bit old singing the same album constantly, especially because she has had several albums since. There wasn’t any of the latest album at all, though that’s kind of understandable since The Storm Before the Calm is an electronic music based meditation album. It’s decent, but you don’t really want to put your crowd to sleep with calming meditative music.
Some highlights, Wake Up where they break out ALL THE GUITARS was pretty good. I do wonder a bit just how many guitars it takes to be “too many” sometimes.
Forgiven is already a pretty intense song, made way more so with the live performance, with all the drama of the song brought out for the stage.
Uninvited and Smiling both start out light-ish but build into an intensely chaotic but well done ball of energy and sound and guitars. Smiling may have been my favorite of the night.
As mentioned above, she really encouraged the audience to sing along to probably her most iconic song, Ironic, I think the audience would doing at least 50% of it with her holding the mic out to the crowd to sing.
The encore performance of Your House was so hilariously good. She kept stopping the band in feign disgust and they would start again doing a different style of music as the backdrop, all not anything like her normal style, like funky or jazzy riffs.
I will throw out there, I kind of wish there was a bit more audience interaction. I guess I’m used to some really talky artists, but I am also a bit more used to smaller venues, so maybe that’s just, not a thing at this level?
A few last wrap ups, the rain tried to come, and it sprinkled a bit before the show, during Tenille Townes, and between sets, but it managed to hold off despite the ominous overcast. The early access pre show ticket was 1000% worth it for a good spot. Bring right up front is so amazing, I strongly recommend some good concert earplugs though. For Alanis, the Encore was especially loud.
Here’s another album for the “This is already so popular” list of albums, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. Per Wikipedia, it’s the 13th biggest-selling album, ever, and the 3rd biggest put out by a woman. There is a good chance that you’ve at least heard a song from this album, somewhere. It’s an album that really sort of embodied a lot of the 90s feel at the time. It’s an album that I listened to a lot in High School and beyond, and it’s a strong strong contender for “Most listened to album”. I like to track music as much as possible these days with Last.fm, but there are a lot of gaps in that record, from the before times, and this is one of them. Others include Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Greatest Hits, and probably a few Aerosmith albums.
Why cover this album now? Because in a few days, I’m going to see Alanis in concert at the Illinois State Fair. I don’t really have a “bucket list”, but if I did, going to an Alanis Morissette concert is one of them, even if it’s 25 years late. I have not really picked up on a lot of Alanis’ later music, though I want to. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is the only other album I have really listened to by her and it’s ok, but not quite as good as Jagged Little Pill. Something I wasn’t aware of until recently after watching the documentary Jagged, is that Alanis actually had a few albums before Jagged Little Pill that were essentially just regular boring pop music.
Which was part of what made this album blow up and become a huge hit. There was plenty of angry rock alternative music by dudes out there, but not a lot by women at the time. The whole album is this crazy ball of angry rage for a lot of its tracks. The first single from the album You Oughta Know has long been rumored to be about her former boyfriend Dave Coulier (Joey from Full House, the goofy guy) but it’s never been confirmed. With such lovely lyrics as
Cause the joke that you laid in the bed that was me– You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette
And I’m not gonna fade as soon as you close your eyes
And you know it
And every time I scratch my nails
Down someone else’s back
I hope you feel it
Well, can you feel it?
The lyrics in general are part of what really makes the album appealing. It’s all so poetically blunt at times, full of anger and trauma. It also becomes self-reflective and vulnerable in other places. It starts out very in your face with All I Really Want, You Oughta Know, and Right Through You. Even the slightly more subdued of the early tracks Perfect has a built to how it’s all just too much trying to be perfect. As the album goes on it becomes a lot more subdued, but still tells a string of stories about broken history and broken relationships.
Probably the most well-known track on the album is Ironic, which is an extremely popular and enjoyable song, but it’s also the subject of ridicule and jokes as most of the scenarios in the song are more straight tragic than actually ironic. Rain on your wedding day, ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife, that sort of thing. The real Irony I suppose is a song called Ironic without any irony in it. I doubt it runs that deep though.
Probably my favorite tracks on the album are Hand in My Pocket and Mary Jane. I really like the whole building optimism of the former, and how it almost feels like it travels through stages of a life with it’s slightly evolving Chorus lyrics. Mary Jane is a nice slow ballad where Alanis really throws out those vocals.
This is also the other reason this album became so popular I think. It’s not just the lyrics, but the way they are delivered. No one thinks twice about scream-singing with male bands, but Alanis helped bring this concept to her music. She has a very distinctive almost yodeling screech at times in her voice which feels like it should be off-putting but instead, it just drives the whole energy of the album. It pushes the rage when needed. It pushes the 90s alternative “who gives a shit really?” vibe when needed. There is also a lot fo interesting almost folksy feeling to her tracks
There’s probably a reason Alanis Morissette never really ended up with a ton of staying power on her future works, because Jagged Little Pill just really embodied the times, and left an influential legacy on music, but released any other time, probably wouldn’t have even taken off at all. I definitely am not saying it’s a bad album, I am just saying that it probably just doesn’t resonate with people who weren’t there, so to speak.