Alanis Morissette
Star Pavilion, Hershey, Pennsylvania
(27 August 1996)

You've got to hand it to Alanis Morissette.

In the wake of her three-Grammy February, when her Jagged Little Pill album won top honors, she's come under fire for being pretentious, a poseur, a former teeny-bopper who's just going to fade back to Canada once the hype ends.

If her performance Monday in Hershey is any indication, though, Morissette has a lot more to say, and she'll stick around long enough to say it well.

She's far, far beyond the "angry young woman" label that's been stuck on her. And, from the looks of the Hershey crowd, fans who appreciate her forthrightness are legion.

Morissette burst on the scene last summer, with the release of "You Oughta Know." The song was an outburst of hurt and anger against a lover who had betrayed her emotions. It was bitter, raw ... and dead on target. That single has been followed by "You Learn," "Ironic" and "Hand in My Pocket," with lyrics which also reveal emotional vulnerability. There's anger but, in songs like "Not the Doctor," there's more of a resolve to not be a doormat, a martyr to a lover's whims.

Morissette took the stage to the screams of an audience packed against the stage, with the opening, Middle Eastern-tinged harmonics of "All I Really Want." Her concerts have gotten mixed reviews, but she was right on Monday night, her voice keening over power guitars.

It's a voice that, when it's on, makes you sit up and take notice. It swoops from a shout to a soft undertow, pulling the audience from verse to verse and into the chorus.

Loping around the stage, Morissette projected energy, taking one side and then the other in leaping strides, her long brown hair streaking behind her to catch up.

In all the action, Morissette gleefully makes performing look fun. There's no pretentious costume, just a black T-shirt and black jeans. There's no makeup, just a powerful sensuality that shows itself in her confidence and her willingness to make emotional leaps.

Morissette focused on material from Jagged Little Pill, which won Grammy Album of the Year and Rock Album of the Year honors. Whipping through all the hits for the thousandth time, she still managed to make them sound fresh. She's backed on the tour by a four-member band that's tight, and that adds vocal harmonies occasionally.

The audience chimed in, too. When Morissette slowed things down with "Head Over Feet," the crowd sang loud enough to duet with her word for word.

Radiohead returned to Hershey to fill the opening spot. It was the group's second visit here in less than a year; they filled the same role during REM's date last fall. Lead singer Thom Yorke's voice seemed to soar a little more easily, and the guitars were a little less muddy, than they were last time around.

[ by Jen Kopf ]

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