Alanis Morissette has returned to the jagged little sound that made her famous.
The Canadian singer debuted eight new songs during a show Friday night, providing a generous preview of her next album, which is sitting in limbo while she fights a contract dispute with Maverick Records.
Much of the new material harked back to the edgier pop-rock of Morissette’s 1995 smash, Jagged Little Pill, and steered away from the moody, Eastern-influenced sound of its follow-up, 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.
Accordingly, the two-hour performance – the first of two consecutive nights at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre – was almost entirely devoted to new songs and Jagged hits. Junkie tunes were hard to come by, with only the hit “Thank You” and “Sympathetic Character” making the cut.
Clad in a sleeveless peach shirt and a sheer slit skirt wrapped around black leather pants, the singer and her five-man band performed before a colorful backdrop picturing flowers and a yin-yang symbol, with the word “Artist” printed in the center. Morissette played guitar on most of the new songs, including the opening numbers “Unprodigal Daughter” and “21 Things I Want in a Lover.”
“Wow, we’re actually doing this,” she said early in the set. “These are new songs I wrote in the last six months. Thanks for letting us try them on for size.”
She then led the band into the chimey, flaring “Fear of Bliss,” featuring the line “Sometimes I feel this is too good to be true.”
On the softer side of the new material was the ballad “Flinch,” for which Morissette played acoustic guitar. “What are you, my dad/ You touch me like you are my dad,” she sang. The lyrics, in typical Morissette fashion, featured slight variations of the same line throughout the song, with the singer substituting “kin” and “aunt” for “dad” in subsequent verses.
A couple of new songs recalled the confrontational angle that marked so much of Jagged, but traded the petulance of “You Oughta Know” for more reflective, mature sentiments. On the percussion-heavy “Bent 4 U,” Morissette sang, “A million times, a million ways, I feast on scraps from you.” On “Narcissist,” which featured spoken verses set against melodic choruses, she sang, “I try to help you, but you really don’t want me to.”
Both “Purgatorying” and “A Man” carried a moody feel, the latter opening with Morissette’s voice set against keyboards.
Though the crowd, which included Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, embraced the new material, Morissette effectively sprinkled her hits throughout the show to avoid chancing patience. Highlights came with the chilling rendition of “Uninvited” and the show-closing “Ironic.”
Several of the new songs have already turned up on Napster and elsewhere on the Net.
The next stop for Morissette is the Rock Am Ring festival in NÃ¼rburgring, Germany, on June 1.