Hummingbird Centre, Toronto - June 7, 2005

JANE STEVENSON - Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:41 AM ET

TORONTO - Apparently Alanis Morissette can revisit the past. But not without some strong emotions in the present.

The 31-year-old Ottawa native launched her latest North American tour -- and her first-ever acoustic trek -- last night at the Hummingbird Centre.

The road beckons leading up to Monday's release of the acoustic version of her 1995 breakthrough disc, Jagged Little Pill, so the set was almost entirely made up of those songs.

"This is a real growth challenge for me," acknowledged the forward-looking singer of revisiting the Pill material. "And I have to say is: It's really choking me up."

The new acoustic version of Pill, including Morissette's signature song, You Oughta Know, is being released in Starbucks exclusively first for six weeks. Following that it will be available in record stores on July 26, although some chains have threatened to boycott due to the Starbucks deal.

Commercial controversy aside, Morissette's popularity clearly isn't what it was given the Hummingbird, with a capacity of 3,200, was close to, but not entirely, sold-out. I remembered back to a concert I covered at Barrie's Molson Park in 1996 when 35,000 people turned up to sing, dance and clap-along to each and every one of her Pill songs.

Still, despite the presence of four video screens, there was a nice cozy feeling about last night's concert with its living room set, complete with comfortable furniture, lamps, framed pictures, rugs, candles and incense.

Even Morissette's pet chihuahua, an earlier star in video footage during Hand In My Pocket, sauntered on stage during Hands Clean, the latter one of the few non-Pill songs.

"This is my son," she joked, after giving the tiny dog a big hug and kiss. "I think he looks more like Ryan!" (The reference was to her fiance, Vancouver actor Ryan Reynolds.)

Opening her 90-minute set alone on stage with Your House, a harrowing a capella number, Morissette's strong voice never wavered.

However, later in the show, when she was backed by a five-piece-outfit whose number sometimes swelled to six, her vocals were, at times, nasal-sounding with all those quirky yelps and wails on prominent display

"It's a workout," she said as she gulped bottle after plastic bottle of tea. "I can't hide behind those electric guitars."

On the other hand, Morissette hit some major notes during Perfect and Mary Jane with some of the biggest audience response for Head Over Feet, Ironic and You Oughta Know.

Morissette also showed her sense of humour about the past throwing in her cheesy, big-hair 1992 dance-pop hit Too Hot.

"For those 16-year-old days," she said by way of introduction before the crowd went nuts again.


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