by MIKE CHAIKEN
The ’90s were the worst of times and best of times for women.
It was the worst of times if the #MeToo movement is any indication. As we are made aware of the hardships women face in 2018, we can only imagine what went on behind closed doors and enforced silence in the final decade of the old millennium.
But for women musicians, the 1990s were the best of times. Individuality and artistry flourished. Music that seemed a bit oddball for traditional Top 40 radio in years past (and now years present) zipped into the ears and hearts of music fans.
Singer-songwriters like Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Fiona Apple, and Jewel soared to the top of the sales rankings. Although they shared a gender, they all approached music sans the corporate cookie cutter.
Simply put, Alanis Morissette is damn fortunate she released “Jagged Little Pill” in 1995 rather than today. It’s an album whose songs are about women standing up for themselves against the patronizing attitudes of men in relationships and career. And although we talk about #MeToo in 2018, women musicians are forced to abdicate songwriting to teams and record company market over-the-top sexuality as individuality.
I remember when “Jagged Little Pill” came out and there were tons of comments—particularly from men—asking why Morissette was so angry. But the question was akin to men telling women they would be “prettier if you would only smile” and patting them on the head like a child if they tried to protest.
In hindsight, Morissette wasn’t angry; she was frustrated at being dismissed because of her gender.
But in the #MeToo zeitgeist of the moment, if the Oct. 20 show at the Mohegan Sun Arena is any indication, Morissette and her point of view still resonate with listeners especially women from their 20s to her peers in their late 40s.
The house was jam-packed with fans catching this one-off concert in New England.
Although #MeToo was in the air, Morissette never addressed the state of the world and tried to hijack the concert into a rally. She let the music and words—and her own person— do the talking.
And Morissette and her band were clearly on top of their game. There was no indication that Morissette’s inevitable fade from the spotlight in the 2000s had dulled her skills as a performer.
Morissette’s voice was as strong as ever—maybe even stronger. The energy level also was crackling.
Her set list, which included the inevitable “Ironic” (in which the audience hijacked the song as they recited the words by heart), “You Oughta Know,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “Mary Jane,” and the encore “Thank U,” also demonstrated the many textures in Morissette’s music possessed over the years. Although “You Oughta Know” initially roared through the speakers with the typical force of grunge, Morissette’s songwriting was all about exploration. Electronics, Eastern instrumentation, and folk all found their way into her music. The diversity, however, is all held together by the strand of Morissette’s own particular point of view.
Interestingly, Morissette never took on the role of “rock star” in the Mohegan Sun. There was no posturing at the microphone. Oftentimes, although she was the reason for the crowd, Morissette was more at home at being a part of an ensemble with her band. This was one of those shows that was less “performance” and less “show” and more about music.
Morissette also was clearly having fun. Her smile as she reached into her songwriting bag of tricks, which always was greeted with applause, indicated she was energized by the amount of love in the room for her.
For a moment, Morissette was the biggest star of the world. But the show at the Mohegan Sun demonstrated Morissette is fine with letting others fill the pages of paparazzi photographs. She is more at home as a songwriter who has the opportunity to share her artistry and thoughts with the world.
I give Alanis Morissette at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Oct. 20 four out of four stars.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN