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Alanis Morissette

Smooth cathartic rage on stage

By Philip Tan and Aaron D. Mihalik

The night was filled with brilliant performances from Alanis Morissette and Garbage. The post-grunge electronica-influenced pop-rock fusion of Garbage has won them critical appeal, as the singer Shirley Manson mentioned late in the evening “This is our last tour before we head for the Grammys! Don’t hold your breath for the Grammy, though.” Indeed, but hope springs eternal.

Amidst a remote-triggered drum loop, Garbage sauntered onto stage to launch into a 45 minute set -- practically a concert by itself, minus the filler. Alanis Morrisette is a singer, but Garbage is a band, a detail hammered home by the first song of the night, “Temptation Waits”. Duke Erikson flamboyantly swung his axe during his loopy solos, Butch Vig triggered his midi-ed kit flawlessly, and Steve Marker stood in the back with an arsenal of loops and rhythm guitar.

Manson, of course, stole the show with her Scottish accent, high-kicks and a truckload of attitude. The feather boa symbolized their debut album; Manson’s new space-age vinyl outfit spoke of bondage gear as much as of techno-fetish, a perfect echo of “Version 2.0”.

All the songs performed had received airplay or had prominent positions on their album. “I Think I’m Paranoid” and “When I Grow Up” marked two recent singles, and it was stunning to see how they replicated Vig’s ProTools-happy tracks on stage.

Manson sang counter-melodies during difficult passages, and band went at full force through the whole set, instead of the buildup-of-anticipation style of the album. This kept the energy level high, the speakers blaring and the audience dancing through the entire set. The sound engineers displayed how to achieve volume without pain: the bass slammed at groundshaking levels, but the voices and guitars flew with silky clarity and minimal unintended distortion. The lights were simple but fun, with almost no followspot work.

“It seems we have a few Garbage fans in the audience tonight,” Manson observed. Though most were happy to sit in their seats until the main act, those standing were having the time of their lives.

“Medication,” a rarity in their live performances, saw Erikson on an electronic piano and was the only downtempo piece of the set. The instruments drowned Manson’s high notes of this sweet piece, but provided an aesthetic pause before charging full-face into the rest of the danceable set. The second half of the Garbage opener was filled with favorites: “#1 Crush” from the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack, their latest single “Special” and the first album hits “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When it Rains”. Garbage ended with “Push It” sans the Brian Wilson vocals, which would undoubtedly have been filled in by the audience at a solo concert. The band looked like they were having fun; Manson’s sweet rapport with the audience balanced her bad-girl lyrics. There were definitely a few new Garbage fans in the audience by the end of their 45 minutes.

During the intermission, the remainder of the stadium filled. The people who came in during the intermission contrasted with the people already there. The crowd for Garbage was mostly composed of teenagers, while the crowd that came in represented their parents’ generation.

Also during the intermission, several people were removed from the venue. These people, who ignored the prohibition of cameras at the concert, had to suffer the consequences at a venue with an oppressive regime of bouncers and security guards.

As soon as Alanis came on stage, the crowd was on their feet. The Fleet Center was now near full capacity to hear the main event.

Alanis began her set with a number of her lesser-known songs from her most recent release, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998). Evident from the reaction of the crowd, the album has been out long enough for several of the tunes to gain hit-song status.

Even though Alanis is known for her songs filled with rage, in concert she provides the audience with an uncharacteristically smooth sound that performed well in the venue. Alanis’s sound contrasted with Garbage; Garbage’s music would have been much more appreciated in a smaller, grunge-club setting while Alanis produced a sound that would fit well at any number of venues.

The crowd erupted when Alanis began playing songs from her multi-platinum Jagged Little Pill (1995). The crowd overflowed with enthusiasm when Alanis brought out her harmonica and to began her hit “Hand in my Pocket.” This, like many of her popular songs that she played that night, turned into a massive sing along with the audience.

Alanis’s odd dressing and performance style only added to her smooth cathartic rage on stage. She was wore a long green dress and a black top that clashed in her unique way. Her two long pigtails floated in the air as she danced in her jerky-drug induced manner. While she wasn’t dancing, she stood completely still and only moved her head to show her emotion in the song.

Her best performance of the night was “You Oughta Know.” Her first hit from Jagged Little Pill opened with a thundering bass line and the percussion was simply a set of conga drums. This piece was brilliant.

When she slowed down, she filled the venue with her passionate voice and you could feel the cathartic rage that she insidiously hid in her slow moving music.

At the end of her second encore, she put her hand over her breasts, then extending her hands out to the crowd, as if to say thank you.