Alanis Morissette, 02 Arena, London


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The Independent Culture

Her nasal soprano bellows out into the 20,000-strong throng, rising up and up to reach the gravelly top notes of “I Remain”. But where’s Alanis? The crowd can’t see her. There’s a full band but no sign. We crane our necks to double check that the bass player with long hair isn’t her (it's a big venue).

We look up, hoping for some Take That-style arena drama that might swing Alanis down from the sky. But no. Bafflingly nothing dramatic happens, but after singing the best part of her opening track off-stage Alanis lumbers into the limelight casually and proceeds to zigzag across the stage greeting us while launching into “All I Really Want”. We all go wild singing along.

Vocally and physically this 38-year-old Canadian American is virtually unchanged from the girl who sold 33 million copies of Jagged Little Pill in the nineties. Her mane of dark hair is longer than ever and she jiggles about in sparkly leggings and high top trainers that might have been twenty years old. She recognises that despite touring to promote her new album Havoc and Bright Lights we really, really want to hear the old tunes. Mad enthusiasm greets “You Learn”, “Mary Jane” and “Right Through You”.

At 19 Alanis’s original selling point was expressing the hell’s fury of a woman scorned. But, luckily for her, life didn’t work out quite as badly as anticipated. Which means that while she may be little changed, there is one major difference: the angst is missing. Screaming out “And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it” I’m not quite sure she means it. She delivers her old tunes with pizzazz, her vocal range undimmed, but she wears a beatific smile.

She saves her emotional big guns for “Guardian”, the single she wrote about her baby son Ever, the best song on her new album. Strumming on a guitar made out of the same sparkly stuff as Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of OZ, she unleashes her inner rock chic, long tresses bobbing along. At one point Alanis gets so involved with the head banging she accidentally nuts herself in the face with the mic, which produces titters.

The highlight of the night is, of course, “Ironic” which the girls behind me belt out louder than the woman herself. And who would’ve thought, two decades on, it still figures?