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Music Review

Despite glitches, Morissette keeps devoted crowd in her pocket

By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / September 22, 2008
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It must be a little strange for Alanis Morissette to have to keep singing "Ironic," even after more than a dozen years of being lambasted for her failure to properly understand the titular concept. But the song is still one of her biggest hits, and the audience at the Orpheum on Saturday didn't seem to care what you call a black fly in your Chardonnay. It was too busy singing along.

Then again, Morissette is an artist who provokes wild enthusiasm even in light of what might otherwise be considered shortcomings. She has become no more accomplished a harmonica player in the past decade, but that didn't prevent cheers from erupting when she pulled the instrument out for "Hand In My Pocket," "All I Really Want," and "Head Over Feet." She also hit a high note in the final chorus of "Not As We" where it wasn't clear whether the sound that came out was her voice or microphone feedback.

Then there was her five-piece band, which sounded as though someone had thrown a blanket on top of it. That muffled the impact of songs like "Head Over Feet," the chorus of which never quite popped the way it needed to. The result was that a lot of Morissette's material took on the doom-and-gloom goth coloration of Evanescence but none of its sub-metallic power. "Sympathetic Character" and a few others were too strangely subdued to pull off the ominous, overpowering coda the band was aiming for. "Tapes" in particular sounded like a dull, uncomfortably close copy of Sia's "Breathe Me."

"Flinch," on the other hand, took advantage of the muted sonics, gentle and airy with room to swirl. It was the same with the low-key, warmly ethereal "So Pure," with each acoustic note plinking through the air like a tiny firework burning out quickly but with another right on its tail. And a slow, dirge-like "You Oughta Know" emphasized the song's hurt over its more notorious anger.

But Morissette barely needed to sing that one, since the whole of the Orpheum engaged in a giant singalong. And when she sang "Why are you so petrified of silence?/ Here, can you handle this?" during "All I Really Want," the audience shrieked at the top of its lungs in the dead space that followed. Now that's ironic.

Alexi Murdoch opened with the sort of low-murmur acoustic music that doesn't work without 100 percent of the attention of 100 percent of the audience, but he couldn't break through the chatter. Murdoch instead pitched his delicate, quiet performance to the ideal crowd in his head.

Alanis Morissette

With Alexi Murdoch

At: Orpheum, Saturday

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