This review was corrected on May 13, 2002.
Going to an Alanis Morissette show used to be like walking into a minefield — while her bluntly confessional lyrics (more jottings than writing) made her seem open, if not unguarded, her stiff performances and wary demeanor felt like a series of obstacles, and you never knew what step would set off the trip wire.
At Universal Amphitheater Friday night (the first of two shows), a more relaxed Morissette put to rest the cliche of the singer as the archetypal “angry young woman.”
Looking stylish and confident in black sweater and leather pants, wielding a guitar with a sparkly finish, Morissette performed with a coltish enthusiasm, singing with a new, less mannered freedom. With one-third of her set drawn from her new Maverick album “Under Rug Swept,” Morissette cut a less strident figure than in the past.
Even “You Oughta Know,” her rabidly forceful hit, came off as less vengeful than rueful. Although songs such as “21 Things I Want in a Lover” and “A Man” are arrhythmic laundry lists that can still read like inelegant diary entries, and she tried to tie the evening together through the unfortunately titled “Puratorying” triptych, maturity has given her warmth and dimension. She has become a more mature, more rounded writer and performer.
Morissette is helped immensely by her band. Anchored by former Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery, the band lends her modal melodies some funky muscle, turning “So Unsexy” into a gloss on “Kashmir” and “Uninvited” into a surging ballad.
Opening act Ryan Adams continues to be one of the most perversely fascinating performers working today. With “roots music” starting to break through commercially, including his own “Gold” (Lost Highway), Adams is now touring with a full fledged rock band. On a dimly lit stage, Adams appears three sheets to the wind, but that didn’t seem to effect his performance. He ran his new band through an intense, psychedelic blues that at times recalled the Doors, and he recast older material such as “Firecracker” into a Dylan/Springsteen/Tom Petty mold.
This reckless, damn-it-all attitude is a refreshing change from the cautious careerism of other up and coming acts, and, if he couldn’t pull it off, it would be professional suicide. But Adams managed to make it work, at times brilliantly.