Even though rain poured down for most of the evening, it didn't have a dampening effect on the intense love-in for Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos Wednesday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The screams of their ardent fans marked every song and just about every chord change.
Tori Amos is a local hero who inspired Morissette and her music's emotional, autobiographical rants, but it was Amos who opened for the younger, platinum-selling Morissette. Amos was accompanied by her band for most of her set, which started with a string of old hits like "Crucify" and "Cornflake Girl," but went on to play "Silent All These Years" and a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Thank You" without the backup. "It's pretty weird being here," she observed between songs. "I used to make out up there on the lawn. . . . I never in my life made it into the pavilion."
Where Amos was anchored by her piano throughout her set, Morissette, for the most part, had no instruments to weigh her down and took over the entire stage during her performance, bobbing frantically from side to side on the stage and throwing herself and her long mane of hair around. When she calmed down, it was in a few unexpected places, such as her funky but subdued performance of "You Oughta Know." She saved "Thank U" and "Ironic" for her encore. And--isn't it ironic?--that's when the rain finally stopped.
It's tough to say which makes Suzy Bogguss more darling, her voice or her absence of vanity. At the Birchmere Wednesday, Bogguss told her fans that she owes her career to being discovered at a tacky Tennessee theme park and that she actually enjoys doing in-store appearances to plug her products. Though she has already made Blackwell's "worst dressed" list, Bogguss's dashiki-and-stretch-pants ensemble showed she'd still rather be cozy than elegant. The rural Illinois native even admitted signing with a new label, Platinum, in part so she could say that "every record I put out was a Platinum record."
But between the self-deprecating disclosures, Bogguss sang, and with each perfect note made it easier to understand why she's so at ease with herself. During her 20-song, two-hour set, she was equally comfortable covering material aimed at brainy country music fans (John Hiatt's "Drive South" and Nanci Griffith's "Outbound Plane") or the bucolic (the yodel-heavy "Night Rider's Lament"). Bogguss put as much effort into her delivery of jangly pop tunes ("Hey Cinderella") as she did revered torch songs (Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me") or breakup ballads ("Aces," "Letting Go").
Members of her band played with a fitting lack of ego, throwing snippets of classic rock--"Sunshine of Your Love," "Baba O'Riley," even "Free Bird"--into the set whenever the chord changes of a particular song allowed them to. Bogguss ended the evening with "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," a yodeler's classic written by Patsy Montana in 1935. She left the stage to a standing, screaming ovation, the sweetheart of everybody in the club.