Alanis Morissette Gives the Middle Finger to the Patriarchy on Father's Day

Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette Photo by Halle Yap, courtesy of The Oriel Co,
Alanis Morissette, with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Morgan Wade
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
June 16, 2024

Weirdly, it was probably the patriarchy that had many folks arriving late to the Alanis Morissette show last night at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Folks who weren’t delayed by Father’s Day festivities might have been around to hear Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” burst through the speakers just ahead of an opening set by the rock icon Joan Jett and blaring that particular song across the amphitheater and into The Woodlands was fitting. Morissette, Jett and rising country star Morgan Wade are all cut from a certain ethos and they’ve teamed for this road show, dubbed the Triple Moon Tour.

Jett’s presence (and Kathleen Hanna’s song) were good reminders that Morissette wasn’t the original rebel girl. But, her unfiltered, unapologetic, poetic and fierce songs from a very decidedly female perspective arrived on the heels of hair metal’s misogyny and during grunge’s male-dominated heyday. Her songs made an impact on women and men too and that’s why 16,000 of us were there, packed from the pit to the back wall, to sing along and celebrate that spirit.

The songs and their singers may be older, but the feelings felt fresh when Morissette and audience joined in union for “Hand in My Pocket,” her set’s opener and a key track off her opus, 1995’s Jagged Little Pill. The album is so instrumental to music it went on to win a bunch of Grammy and Juno Awards, is listed in Rolling Stone’s and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s top 100 albums and spawned a Broadway musical. “Hand in My Pocket” was a great way to start the night. It wasn’t the song that made Morissette the buzz of alt-rock – that one came much later in the set – but it did depict all the concern, confusion, frustration and ultimately the hopefulness Morissette and her Gen X and millennial fans once shared and, apparently, still do.

Nearly 30 years later, there’s a new generation of fans who can sing the timeless line “I’m young and I’m underpaid, I’m tired but I’m working, yeaaahhh,” and absolutely connect to “Hand in My Pocket” and its singer, who possesses one of music’s most unique and recognizable voices, by the way. In case you were wondering, she still belts it out. The Woodlands audience got an up-close and personal listen when she and her band fled the stage to a smaller version near the soundboard mid-set.

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Morissette's set was heavy on songs from the all-time classic, Jagged Little Pill
Photo by Halle Yap, courtesy of The Oriel Co,

There, they channeled their MTV Unplugged days to play a few acoustic tunes including “Rest,” a newer song that focuses on mental health awareness and “Mary Jane,” a Pill standout that advocated for women who maybe didn’t feel as empowered as their rock goddess, those who may have felt fragile or vulnerable. It was the perfect vehicle for the band’s moment in the round, so to speak, since many of the surrounding audience – women and men – survived those feelings of inadequacy or doubt to be there celebrating with her.

The audience hung on every word she delivered in the acoustic run. That relocation to the soundboard was something this music fan has never seen at CWMP but maybe Morissette will start a new trend there. She’s certainly no stranger to leading the way. A video package that ran ahead of her set reminded us that singers like Fiona Apple, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Katy Perry and fellow Canadian Avril Lavigne all cite her as influential to their music.

The second song of the set – “Right Through You” – was the best example of the night of what attracted many of us to Morissette’s music. When it was first heard nearly 30 years ago, it was a scathing indictment of some man who took her “took me for a joke” and “took a long hard look at my ass.” It began from a personal place but grew into a rally song for everyone sick of the bullshit of the patriarchy. Up high in the set list, Morissette sang it with even more conviction it seemed, maybe buoyed by the visuals behind her, feminist flashcards of sorts, written in bold white lettering.

One read “18 Countries Allow Men to Prohibit Their Wives from Working.” Another stated “Not a Single Country in the World Has Achieved Gender Equality.” Those notions alone may have been enough to spur Morissette to sing harder or more expressively, but she surely was motivated by many, many young women in the audience, the grown offspring of the Gen Xers who were also on hand for a night out.

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Morgan Wade
Photo by Halle Yap, courtesy of The Oriel Co,
One such young person was invited to the stage to sing “Ironic” with Morissette but, ironically, didn’t seem to know the words to one of the headliner’s biggest hits. Never mind, she still got a long, warm hug from Morissette, the guardian who was dressed all in white and shining (because she was sweating, it was super hot out last night) like a lunar goddess. Morissette chose gestures like this and sprinting out into the crowd for an intimate acoustic set over scripted speeches and stage patter and that was totally fine by us. More time for more songs, about two dozen in all.

A few choice words she did share was how she and the band were aware of a hard curfew, so they wouldn’t be leaving the stage only to return moments later for an encore. Instead, she went right into “Uninvited,” which is still haunting and unlike many diss tracks we've ever heard, and “Thank U,” the punctuation mark on a night where the headliner and her devoted truly shared that sentiment of gratitude.

The Openers: Those Father’s Day duties mentioned earlier? Sadly, they kept us from seeing or hearing Morgan Wade’s set. We have it on good authority from our friend in the crowd – a musician and music educator who we'll hear more from a few paragraphs below – that Wade was amazing. We believe her too, since we just saw her crush it at Big as Texas Fest, a mere month ago in Conroe.

Joan Jett was the fashion opposite of Morissette, dressed all in black (sorry, no photos as the house provided all images rather than your local Houston Press photographers), but kindred in their catalogs of women empowerment. As always, she rocked, running through timeless gems like “Cherry Bomb” from her Runaways days, “I Love Rock and Roll”, which was the night’s first big sing-along, “Crimson and Clover” and the set closer, “Bad Reputation.” If you’ve never seen Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and worry that time may have taken its toll on them all, fret not and buy a ticket to their next outing in your vicinity. They still bring it, even in the scorching heat of a Houston summer night.

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Morissette invited the crowd to sing along to songs that have proven anthemic
Photo by Halle Yap, courtesy of The Oriel Co,
Personal Bias: Shout out to my guy, the late Nels Hill. In 1995, he and I were toiling away at a dead-end job adjusting slip and fall claims for an area grocer and reporting to a turd of a boss, the sort of self-important fellow who inspired a lot of Morissette’s music. When “You Oughta Know,” her breakthrough global hit was released, I shared the song with this fella and he failed to see any artistic merit in it, muttering something about just hearing a bunch of F words (there’s only one in the song) and indecency.

His rebuke stung a little bit, partly because it was a shot at my music taste and partly because he was the boss and I was still too young and dumb to know I didn’t have to impress him in any way to keep my job. Thankfully, my friend Nels was there to assure me Alanis did, in fact, kick ass. That she would prove to be a voice of a generation. Nels loved all sorts of music, everything from “Beer Barrell Polka” to “Blitzkrieg Bop”. He egged me on to sharing Liz Phair with my boss just so he could roll his eyes when this dude would predictably make a rude remark about another alt-rock priestess. Nels was the kind of person you wanna work with, someone who gets you and your music and gives a big middle finger to the man - just like Alanis.

Random Notebook Dump: Our local musician friend who did catch Morgan Wade’s set also reported from her seat on the lawn that a few of the bad actors Morissette has outed in her music were talking over the concert and making oafish remarks about the songs in her set. What sort of pea-brain spends the money and effort to endure 100-degree heat, a terrible parking situation and high beer prices to attend a show just to spew inane comments no one asked for nor cares about?

For the love of the Luna, please stay home next time, dummies. We’re trying to enjoy the show. If you feel the need to test your sexist “comedy” material on someone, deliver it in your darkened, crummy man cave to your fellow troglodytes on TikTok and X. Thanks.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.