Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Alanis in Israel 2012

Alanis Morissette wrapped up her global Guardian Angel tour at the sold-out Nokia Stadium (Yad Eliyahu) in Tel Aviv last night, and she was awesome, even if her performance wasn't ... exactly.

The hall was supposed to open at 7:00 for the 9:00 concert, with two opening acts: the local Israeli artist Natan Goshen at 7:30 for 1/2 hour and Alanis' husband Mario ("MC Souleye") Treadway at 8:00 for an hour.

Natan didn't come on until after 8:00, but he was AMAZING. I've heard some Israeli music here and there in the twenty odd years I've lived here, and I've been to a few concerts. Natan was among the best I've heard, both in terms of songs and live performance. There should have been more than a half empty stadium during his performance, and it should have been longer.

There was a short break and then Mario came out with a DJ backer. Unfortunately for him, since no one announced him, pretty much no one in the audience knew who he was. It must be a tough job to be on stage performing to people who don't know who you are, are waiting for the main act, and are unimpressed with your act. The audience wasn't rude - they applauded after each song - but they were confused and didn't respond to the music. Part of the problem was that his genre (white rap) was not Alanis' genre, and so really intended for a different audience.

Another problem was the voluminous sound, which made it impossible to understand more than a word or two here or there, which is death for an hour long rap song set list where all the songs otherwise sound the same. "What did he say? Something something tragic, something something automatic, something something plastic, something something uh glass bit?" Another problem was that he's white and a rapper, which is not entirely impossible but difficult for someone who looks handsome, clean, married, and comfortably well off. I'm guessing that he would make a not bad pop singer, but as a rapper, while he tried valiantly to connect to the audience, moving back and forth on the stage, and signing with his hands in sync with his words, he lacked real emotion or street cred, as the kids are saying nowadays.

Alanis came on during his set for one song (Jekyll and Hyde, I'm guessing) to thunderous applause, sang a little, kissed him, and then promised the audience to come back a little later. It took a long time between sets until she finally reappeared at 10:10, over an hour late.

Set list (JLP=Jagged Little Pill, SFIJ=Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, URS=Under Rug Swept, HaBL=Havoc and Bright Lights):

  • I Remain (Prince of Persia soundtrack)
  • Woman Down (HaBL)
  • All I Really Want (JLP)
  • You Learn (JLP)
  • Guardian (HaBL)
  • Mary Jane (JLP)
  • Receive (HaBL)
  • Right Through You (JLP)
  • So Pure (SFIJ)
  • Ironic (JLP)
  • Havoc (HaBL)
  • Head Over Feet (JLP)
  • Lens (HaBL)
  • Henei Mah Tov (instrumental)
  • 21 Things (URS)
  • Uninvited (City of Angels soundtrack)
  • You Oughta Know (JLP)
  • Numb (HaBL)
  • Hand in My Pocket (acoustic) (JLP)
  • Your Room (JLP)
  • Thank U (SFIJ)
Notice anything unusual here? Six songs from the album being promoted, nine songs from her breakthrough album 15 years ago, and almost nothing else. Ok, JLP was incredible, but so was a whole lot of material from her other albums. A few songs from the other albums made it to her set lists at other stops in the tour, and I would dearly have loved to have heard Citizen of the Planet, Eight Easy Steps, Excuses, Everything, Front Row, UR, Unsent, Hands Clean, So Unsexy, Precious Illusions, etc etc in place of a few of the songs from JLP.

Anyhoo ...

Alanis is one of the finest songwriters and music arrangers, and her raw singing passion is surpassed by no one, so being present at her concert was a privilege. Alanis and the band played with smiles and positive energy and the fan was appreciative. She still packs an emotional punch. She's no longer a frustrated jagged pill, so she doesn't sing the old songs with quite the pain they deserve, but so much of the angst is already packed into the lyrics and the music that it doesn't matter so much.

When Alanis picks up a guitar she rocks, and when she dances uninhibitedly like she did on Uninvited you can tell she's enjoying herself. It's fair to say that the night was awesome and the crowd loved it. Despite. Despite that the bass and voice mic being so loud that you couldn't really make out the words on some songs and they caused earache (I guess she had to sing above the screaming of the crowd) and the notes tended to dissolve at that high a volume, and despite that Alanis had some trouble singing all of the words in some of the more frenetic songs here and there. She looked a little out of breath at the beginning.

One lovely thing about Alanis is that she is a musician, not a celebrity pop star: there was no dance routine, no cleavage or thigh on display, no flash--in-the-pan style trying oh so hard to be a hit; just a conservatively dressed, kind of awkward powerhouse of a woman singing words she needs to sing. I say awkward, and really, during the first two songs she just marched from left to right on the stage and back again, over and over, as if she just learned how to take big steps. When she held the guitar she didn't look so awkward, and when she was jumping up and down and rocking (like on Uninvited) she looked like a typical clubber. The pacing was kind of funny.

My daughter also says that she does odd things with the mic, moving and contorting her head to control the sound volume rather than just moving the mic back and forth. However, she was holding a guitar, so I think that this was unavoidable.

On Mary Jane she proved she could still sing while belting it out. On So Pure, she changed the location from New York to Tel Aviv, but she changes the location at every concert to the local city. For Ironic, the audience sang so loudly that Alanis just held the mic out to us for most of the song. She also changed the verse from "and meeting his beautiful wife" to "and meeting my beautiful husband", which kind of robs the song of its point, but the song always was, ironically, never about irony anyway. Lens, with its lyrics about competing religions (used metaphorically) was particularly appropriate for the venue.

After Lens the pianist played a short riff through the classic Hebrew round about brotherly love Henei Ma Tov U'ma Na'im, which I'm pretty sure was not done anywhere else on the tour. It was something to hear 10,000 people scream her most gritty and powerful song You Oughta Know, including the infamous "and are you thinking of me when you f*** her" all together. I was at the concert with my daughter, as I may have mentioned.

She finished around midnight, and 12 hours later my ears are still ringing. We've had some other world class musicians here in Israel recently: Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Red Hot Chile Peppers, etc. This was my first large concert in Israel, actually my first large concert since my first ever large concert Pink Floyd in 1987 at Nassau Coliseum. That one was a blast, and so was this one.

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