Whatever your opinion, 'Jagged Little Pill' was a phenomenal monster of a pop record. An album based on the end of an all-encompassing, wholly unhealthy relationship became both a burden and a virtue in equal measure. One that millions upon millions continue to buy, making it one of the biggest-selling records of all time, still, some seventeen years after its initial release.
The purpose of this handful of tour dates is to promote 'Havoc and Bright Lights', her eighth studio album and the first since the birth of her child, since she shook off the last of the bad boyfriends and met her husband. One that she wrote feeling happy and "over it". Tracks within it, such as 'Celebrity' and 'Woman Down' are reflective on ex-lovers and life as a celebrity on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and pointless parties, but no longer from a disgruntled stance.
Perhaps this is a naïve and predictable admission, but I saw tonight’s gig as a rare opportunity to relive an album I loved and listened to on cassette probably hundreds of times in the nineties, unwise about most of the subject matter and not fussed in the slightest that the song ‘Ironic’ should really have been called something like ‘Sod’s Law’.
It would be safe to assume that most people are here tonight to hear the hits, too - from the thirty-somethings in commemorative '90s t-shirts, to the young fans who might have been handed down the album; a large proportion of people in the room are here, willing her to sing the big hits that are full of angst-ridden howling and the slanderous put downs to an absent perpetrator. You can’t help but feel that if the new out-weighs the well-known in the set list, the mood could turn decisively sour.
The opening song indicates that we are in for a learning curve, as it is new track, ‘Woman Down’, a feisty number that exudes some of the Alanis we know, but not enough. The second track sees her get down to business: ‘All I Really Want’ including the harmonica solo that brings her to her knees, and the song has everyone rapturously singing along, the front row waving tissue paper hearts at her, welcoming her back into their broken teenage hearts.
Alanis is sporting that trademark mountain of wavy hair that she swishes and swings around during instrumentals, galloping about the stage in a child-like manner, losing track of time for the call and response in ‘You Learn’. It is a good ratio of newbies to hits, with only a few of the former, like ‘Receive’ and 'Woman Down' from 'Havoc and Bright Lights'. The final few bars of 'Mary Jane' consist of an ever so slightly cringe-worthy, barometer-spanning set of histrionics but, most pleasingly, the ultimate 'Jagged Little Pill' bangers such as 'You Oughta Know' get us all involved in a giant, cathartic wail-along. Across the arena, the crowd eagerly guessing the outcome of each cryptic intro that evolves into their favourite track. And she seems just fine about it.
Words by Chloe Warnock