It’s not often you go to a gig and prefer the support act over the headliner but in this case Beth Orton is the opening act for Alanis Morissette, and I couldn’t have been happier. Needless to say, Beth does not disappoint playing a superb, concise set of seven songs. Accompanied by double bass, electric guitar and drums, Beth swaps between acoustic guitar and keyboards throughout the performance. Having produced predominantly chilled out folk music for over 25 years, there is no questioning Orton’s ability despite her understated demeanour. Fully aware that she is the support act she sticks to her more well-known back catalogue rather than test the water with tracks from her upcoming album. Beth’s beautifully delicate vocals resonate throughout the huge venue and receive the respect of the ever increasing audience. Gaining the attention of large crowd is no mean feat especially with music that has a fragility about it, yet Beth Orton has their appreciation with songs such as Pass in Time and Thinking About Tomorrow, a number of people shouting out requests or asking for guitar picks to which Orton willingly obliged as they aren’t her picks. The sensitive drumming flows throughout, enhanced by perceptive playing on the double bass, where there is a mixture of bowing and pizzicato used depending on what the song demands and it is the double bass that is the driving force in Call Me The Breeze. She ends one of the finest support sets with the soothing Central Reservation and a promise that she will be back in October.
After Covid related setbacks, Alanis Morissette has finally made it to the Utilita to celebrate 25 years of Jagged Little Pill, an album that you couldn’t fail to hear during the mid 1990s. Pre-empting her arrival on stage, there is a lengthy montage on Alanis Morissette including numerous comedy moments such as Justin Timberblake and Jimmy Fallon singing Ironic as well as snippets of her live video footage from early shows. Unsurprisingly, the first song from Jagged Little Pill is the set opener as Morissette bursts onto the stage with All I Really Want, laying down a statement demonstrating the energy levels that she is going to give to the performance. Alanis rampages from side to side across the stage with a huge smile across her face as her blonde locks flow behind her. Unfortunately the vocal mix isn’t quite right and it takes a couple of songs for the sound engineer to get the levels correct especially when Alanis Morissette starts playing the harmonica at the end of the song, as it overpowers all the other musicians on stage. Continuing with the singles, Hand In My Pocket has everyone singing along, even though I never owned a copy of the album I still know every word which is a testament to the song writing as it was impossible to escape at one point. Hand In My Pocket is a quirky piece using Leonard Cohen’s lyric writing technique of opposites but with a far more optimistic spin. Clearly Morissette’s band are also enjoying their time on stage with the bass player and guitarists running about behind her and at the end of the song, Alanis heads up to the drummer and they replay the ending. As on the album, Hand In My Pocket moves to the more angst ridden Right Through You, an Alanis Morisette emotional forte. The audience is predominantly women of a certain age who lived out their teenage years with Alanis as their soundtrack helping through various traumatic events and they are relishing this experience. The set continues with the big hitters but at a slower pace with You Learn which is interrupted to make a video for one of Alanis’ children, so the whole audience sings Happy Birthday to 6 year old Onyx. Seamlessly, the band return to the song and Alanis’ fabulous microphone control comes into its own as she leans back when hitting the loud, high note demonstrating the power of her mezzo soprano voice.
Unlike many stadium bands, the stage set up is minimal with screens behind showing various select video clips that correlate to the song being performed. During Mary Jane, the images on the back screen show the different body shapes of Alanis Morissette to connect with the lyrics “I hear you’re losing weight again Mary Jane. Do you ever wonder who you’re losing it for?” illustrating a far more content figure on the stage than the one of her youth. Noting that she has contributed to a book called Yoga and Body Image in the past after being very open about dealing with eating disorders in the past. As the set isn’t solely comprised of songs from Jagged Little Pill she mixes in some tracks from Such Pretty Forks In The Road, however, they are far less popular, for example Ablaze sees much of the audience take a rest and sit down and focus on the screen showing images of her family. The most heart-breaking of videos, accompanies Ironic, as dedication to Taylor Hawkins, showing an array of clips when he was drumming for her band. Ironic is not all sadness, Alanis changes lyrics “It’s meeting the man of my dreams And then meeting his beautiful husband” showing a glint of humour and she is certainly enthused by the audience singing along en masse. As the song draws to a close, Morissette gives a bow to an image of Taylor left on the screen. After an hour and half, the lighting on the stage changes to red and orange as she brings the main set to a close with the anthemic portrayal of feminine heartbreak and betrayal, You Oughta Know. Twenty five years later, it still harnesses the utter resentment and anger with its cutting lyrics comparable only to Kelis’ Caught Out There, except now Alanis Morissette is singing it was a far more enjoyment upon her face than the fury I witnessed at Phoenix Festival 1996.
The encore starts with the best song of the night, Uninvited. A song that exploits dynamics to the maximum with its quiet solo keyboard introduction and guitar arpeggios that slowly develops with increased instrumentation and discordant elements. As the intensity builds, Morissette spins around the stage with uninhabited passion, ending up on her knees as the guitar screeches to a final crescendo for the outro. To finish off the evening, the keyboard plays a series of chords to herald Thank U, an uplifting number showing appreciation for different aspects of life. The screen plays a part of this by displaying tweets with the handle #thankyouJLP25 that includes a vast array of personal comments from Alanis’ wealth of fans. Without a shadow of a doubt, there is an arena full of people who wish to say thank you to Alanis for a performance that truly celebrated her most popular album to date which was executed with energy and enthusiasm.
Review: Toni Woodward
Feature photo : Courtesy of PR