Morissette gets a grip on her anger


One wonders why she even wants to go back there.

Ten years ago, Alanis Morissette was the angriest woman in rock. Her seminal album, Jagged Little Pill, netted millions of listeners around the world who could identify with the singer's naked, bitter lyrics. Morissette was thoroughly disgusted with love, enraged at the selfish dude who kicked her heart around like an empty soda can. And she never apologized for or tried to sweeten the anguish. Her lyrics were unabashedly salty as the electric guitars echoed her sentiments. In concert back then, the 21-year-old Morissette screamed the songs, jumped up and down and whirled about the stage, her dark, waist-long hair flying around, obscuring her face.

But what a difference a decade makes.

At the Meyerhoff Saturday night, Morissette, who's on a national tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill, revisited the bitter tunes that made her such a pop phenomenon in the 1990s. This month, the Canadian superstar released a fairly unremarkable acoustic version of the album. But during Saturday's performance, Morissette brilliantly revealed her evolution as an artist while exploring the lyrical pain of her past. And it was apparent through her frequent smiles and calm, easy manner that Morissette has long gotten over whomever or whatever it was that inspired one of the best angry confessional pop albums ever made.

The stage looked like a living room full of warm earth tones. The solid, six-piece band was integrated into the set: The drummer sat between the couch and a chair. A grandfather clock stood behind the keyboardist. One of the guitarists casually spun around in a swivel chair as he strummed. And Morissette mostly stood center stage next to a lamp and table. She opened the show with an a cappella version of the aching heartbreak ballad "Your House." The enthusiastically receptive, packed house cheered as the singer effortlessly filled the joint with big, soaring notes, punctuated occasionally with her signature yelp.

Since 1995, Morissette's vocal control has greatly improved. She sounded more assured throughout as the band backed her with more buoyant arrangements of the familiar tunes. "You Learn," one of the big hits from Jagged, rode a more muscular groove than the original.

The performer peppered her set with some post-Jagged songs, most notably the thrilling, sadly overlooked "So-Called Chaos," which received a driving, more percussive treatment on stage. But the rock star stuck mostly to the songs from the CD that won the album of the year Grammy in 1996. (At 21, the singer was the youngest artist to win in that category.) The audience sang most of "Ironic" with Morissette who, in acknowledgement of the Pride Festival in Baltimore, altered a line in the hit: "It's liking meeting the man of your dreams/Then meeting his beautiful ... husband." The cheers almost drowned out the rest of the song.

On the ballads - "Perfect" and "Mary Jane," in particular - the singer-songwriter was the most affecting and powerful as she refrained from packing syllables with yelps and yodels, an annoying tic she had back in 1995. Instead, she let the melodies unfurl; she let the songs breathe. Even "You Oughta Know," the angriest cut on Jagged, boasted a lighter feel, but the sentiments weren't lost.

At 31, you believe that Morissette is in a much better place altogether. She could barely contain the giddiness during "Hand in My Pocket" as she belted, "What it all comes down to dear friends/Is everything's just fine, fine, fine, fine."

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