Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 13, 1999

Got angst? Well, so do Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos. And the two women channeled theirs in very different ways Saturday at the New World Music Theatre.

Opening her set with “Sympathetic Character,” headliner Morissette performed a variety of material that ranged from lusty rockers to lullaby-pretty ballads. She alternated between songs from her current album “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie” and her breakthrough 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill” – which have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide – and gave the show a cohesive feel.

She also displayed confidence and humor throughout the show. Much has been made of her ungainly stage presence, thanks primarily to her refusal to dance pretty. But one thing’s for sure. When Morissette thrusts her body from one end of the stage to the other – stopping briefly to enjoy a hop here and perhaps a manic shake or   twirl there – she grabs your attention.

“I dedicate this song to anyone who thinks they can’t dance,” she said good-naturedly before she launched into a deceptively catchy “So Pure.” Morissette added special emphasis to the chorus, “I love when you dance/When you freestyle in trance/So pure/Such an expression.”

Morissette saved her best known songs, including the guitar-friendly “You Oughta Know,” for the end. She initially piqued interest with that song’s blunt, sexual lyrics, which had to be bleeped out for Top 40 radio. But Saturday night, she added a sweet edge to a slowed-down version that almost made it tender.

The Canadian-born singer is nothing if not a walking contradiction. She can encapsulate all of a lover’s faults into a three-minute pop song, but not quite figure out whether she wants him back. She refuses to dance onstage, but shows off coordinated hoofing skills in her videos. And she appears nude on her album sleeve, but onstage she is garbed head to toe. (Saturday, she wore an Asian-inspired skirt over a pair of pants.)

But perhaps that’s also why she has touched the psyche of so many fans, particularly young women. Morissette isn’t afraid to say or do what she wants, when she wants. And if that sometimes comes in the form of a gorgeous primal scream of a song, so be it.

Amos didn’t fare as well with her 75-minute set. The radiant singer did her best to turn the cavernous venue into an intimate cabaret. And as always, it was a kick to watch her randy approach to piano playing.

At her best, Amos can reach into your soul and tap emotions that you may have tried to repress. But her confessional songs and direct lyrics were marred at the World by a weak mix that muddied her vocals and a distracting stage setup that included backdrops resembling large sheets of tin foil.

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