A jagged old millennial reviews Alanis Morissette’s Manila concert 

Marguerite de Leon

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A jagged old millennial reviews Alanis Morissette’s Manila concert 
'As a little girl taught to believe in other people’s moral codes, I saw Alanis as one of the few figures in my life then who said that I could think for myself'

MANILA, Philippines – It might seem strange to be an enormous Alanis Morissette fan when you’re a nine-year-old girl. Alanis’ groundbreaking 1995 album Jagged Little Pill is, from the outset, replete with adult themes: abuse, depression, treachery, sex, anger. Lots and lots of anger. 

As a kid listening to the cassette on loop, I knew that lines such as “Would she go down on you in a theater?” and “You took me out to wine, dine, 69 me” were somehow sexual – but my naiveté was a thick veil that kept me from seeing their deeper implications. And while I did understand and appreciate that the despair tinting so many of its tracks was coming from a real place, I had yet to feel this degree of pain personally.

However, despite the disconnect between a very young me, with her Sweet Valley books and Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers, and an album that exuded such an adult, post-traumatic malaise, Alanis still spoke to me directly, with messages that have greatly informed who I am and what I like to this day. 

She taught me, for one, that female singers did not have to sound “pretty” – you could screech, you could wail, you could sound just on the verge of collapse, and this boisterousness, this audacity to yodel instead of doing clean runs and measured octave changes, would be precisely why a song was beautiful. In relation, she taught me that it was okay to be a woman who was unnervingly honest with her feelings, that it was okay to tell the world, “I was deeply wronged by someone, and I am angry, and I do not deserve this,” and have it ring true.  

As a little girl taught to believe in other people’s moral codes, I saw Alanis as one of the few figures in my life then who said that I could think for myself. 

So when I got the opportunity to catch Day 1 of Alanis’ Jagged Little Pill tour at the MOA Arena on August 1, I had no hesitations. My 37-year-old butt hauled itself right over to Pasay City, raring to be that pre-teen again, hoping to receive comfort and catharsis straight from the woman herself. 

Guess who was a sobbing mess from the very first song. Hearing that opening blast of harmonica for “All I Really Want,” and seeing her run out onstage with her long, wild hair and huge grin – it was already a lot for me emotionally. But it was when she started singing that really did me in. 

It’s one thing to hear the power in her voice from an audio track, but it’s another to hear it live: it was more potent, more consuming. And you could tell the immense skill it took to hit and hold these bold, gigantic notes and, often in the same songs, tone it all the way down to something tremulous and tender. In some parts, it felt less like a rock concert, more of a ritual. 

It was a great crowd that night, too; you could tell a lot of them knew the album by heart. You could feel everyone bracing themselves for that irresistible second of silence after “All I Really Want’s” “Here, can you handle this?”; and they would cheer during every song’s harmonica solo – because Alanis is not Alanis without her trusty French harp. 

Naturally, the singles elicited the warmest reactions: “Hand in My Pocket,” “You Learn,” “Head Over Feet,” “Ironic” (featuring a video tribute to the late Taylor Hawkins, who was Alanis’ tour drummer at the height of Jagged Little Pill’s fame), and “You Oughta Know.” The latter was my favorite of the singles, because I think that was her at her most powerful: a straight-up teeth-gnashing fuck you to a lover who’d betrayed her, and she did not hold back during that night’s performance of it.

A jagged old millennial reviews Alanis Morissette’s Manila concert 

However, it was getting to hear her sing the album’s lesser known tracks that really made my night. Each one is a gem in their own right, from the snippy “Not the Doctor,” to the scornful “Right Through You,” to the heartrending “Mary Jane,” and Alanis made sure to give each their due. 

An unexpected standout that night was her performance of “Forgiven,” a song about Catholic guilt and repression. I was a Catholic school girl when I was nine, and back then the song was not just deliciously sacrilegious to me, but also affirming, given how confused I was with religion’s many contradictions and my inability to question them. What made the performance so profound to me on concert night was the realization that this song had likely spoken to many other Filipino fans, too. It was only later in life that I would learn I wasn’t alone in my doubts, so to hear Alanis sing this song to an arena full of Filipinos who had likely also endured, maybe even suffered through, Catholicism’s stifling nature felt strangely important. 

Nonetheless, I had one big misgiving during the concert, and it was Alanis’ bizarre take on “Your House” during the encore. A hidden track on Jagged Little Pill, “Your House” was originally sung a cappella, which made its narrative structure and heartbreaking twist even more compelling. But for some reason, Alanis and her band decided to get all gimmicky and started genre-hopping, switching styles from verse to verse (from a tolerable jazz version to a downright upsetting reggae version) before finally defaulting to a cappella for that last, crucial verse. It was such a missed opportunity.  

Fortunately, the last two songs appeased me well. Her performance of “Uninvited” was the theatrical, hard rock fever dream I’d hoped it would be, a heady mix of noise and drama that will probably stick in my mind for a few more days. And of course, in pleasant contrast, her final song was “Thank U,” with its tinkly electronic piano and message of compassion serving as a warm way to cap things off. 

Funnily enough, I remember hating “Thank U” when it first came out. Alanis had just come from a “spiritual awakening” in India, and this first proper single since Jagged Little Pill was such a departure from the angry, angsty Alanis I knew and loved that I actually felt jilted. But whole decades later, I have come to appreciate its maudlin charm, to understand why it was important for Alanis to write something different this time around, and was happy to hear it live. Consider it a moment of personal growth. 

I am clearly no longer that nine-year-old girl. Nearly three decades later, I recognize that I’ve gone through abuse. I have since been diagnosed as clinically depressed. And I have felt true anger. Lots and lots of anger. And I suppose that confirms why Alanis’ Jagged Little Pill is one of the most important albums of my life, because when I listen to it, I feel this direct line between my clueless childhood self and my not-so-clueless present self, and can see through each song all the pain that I’d undergone from then to now, as well as all the raw honesty and forgiveness that I have tried to practice – and will still need to practice – in order for me to heal. –

The Manila stop of Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’ tour was courtesy of Ovation Productions.

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Marguerite de Leon

Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon heads Rappler’s Life and Style, Entertainment, and Opinion sections. She has been with Rappler since 2013, and also served as its social media producer for six years. She is also a fictionist.