Taking Communion

At the Hammerstein, on a short prealbum tour, she strode purposefully on stage, long slit silk skirt over pants, hindustani-style, running shoes, no-nonsense, resolutely picking up the mike and hefting it to the Doppler siren starting to gather at the back of her throat. She has the rangy swing of a Rebecca Lobo, the sinewy arms and shoulders of triathlon training. Alanis likes to play ping pong backstage, a game of spin and aim. She uses her voice in the same way, as one might put english on a ball, skipping lithely along the cadences of South Asian and Semitic singing, skewing her syllables so they stretch in unlikely places and semitones.

She performed most of the new album and a few old Jagged Little Pill favorites reconfigured to undercut their anthemic qualities. Though you might expect her to milk the audience for sing-alongs, it's actually the opposite. Aware of not abusing her superstar power— the topic of "One," where she admits she's "gotten candy for my self-interest" and calls herself a "sexy treadmill capitalist"— the showgal in her keeps it humane, down to earth; this is a onetime child actress who knows that if you get too full of yourself, you're likely to be slimed, as she was frequently on Nickelodeon. There is a thank you after every song. In fact, the album's first video track is called "Thank U." Appearing naked amidst the detritus of everyday life— on the subway, standing on the street. Whether she can do that on television or not, Alanis seems sweetly and blithely appreciative, unaware that she's creating any stir. Unclothed the fashion equivalent of silence? Go diva go.

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