Fans pack nostalgic for the ’90s opening night when Start.ca Rocks The Park returns

It turns out this jagged little pill is still easy to swallow 27 years after it was released.

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It turns out this jagged little pill is still easy to swallow 27 years after it was released.

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Harris Park in central London is getting back to its normal July self with the multi-night return of Start.ca Rocks The Park this week, and Canadian music icon Alanis Morissette made her London debut on Wednesday as headlining opening night – and delivered inspired and satisfying concert set that had the crowd dancing, cheering and singing.

More than 9,500 fans descended on the park to hear Morissette perform the songs from an anthemic mid-1990s album that sold more than 33 million copies worldwide and propelled her from dance-pop mediocrity to international rock star almost overnight catapulted.

The Ottawa-born superstar’s 25th anniversary tour for this landmark album, Jagged Little Pill, was scheduled for 2020 but was pushed back two years by the pandemic.

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She celebrated with a brilliant set on Wednesday that opened with All I Really Want, followed by Hand in My Pocket and then her other hits: Hands Clean, You Oughta Know, Head Over Feet, Ironic, You Learn, Uninvited and Thank U It’s a collection of songs that earned her four Grammy awards for Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Morissette’s vocals were strong and hadn’t lost on the decades since the album’s release, though she and the band seemed to be struggling through Head Over Feet.

She walked and skipped the stage from start to finish, playing harmonica and some guitar on the first two numbers, but speaking little to the crowd other than introducing her band.

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The opening act was another Canadian act that peaked in the 1990s, Crash Test Dummies. They drew one of the largest early crowds Rock the Park has seen in its 18-year history. They didn’t disappoint with a 13-song set that included the band’s hits, from Superman’s Song and The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead to the closing number Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.

As usual, vendors lined the entrance to Harris Park beyond the gates and many of the fans stopped for dinner and ate while listening to lead singer Brad Roberts’ signature baritone bass voice echoing through the park.

But speaking to the crowd – a large group of 30- and 40-year-olds – it was clear the majority was there for Morissette. “Alanis,” was the simple answer, repeated several times when fans were asked why they came to Night One of the music festival, which runs through Sunday.

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“We’re here for our 16-year-old selves,” said Karen Kuykendall, 39, who traveled from Sarnia with friend Jen Stennett. “Our 16-year-old self would kick our ass if we didn’t show up for that concert. We’ve never seen her before.”

Kuykendall said it was amazing to be back at an outdoor concert after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s so good to be with other people again, it feels like normal.”

Marcel Gelinas lived in London for almost 20 years before moving to Zurich. He’s enjoyed Rock the Park since the beginning and bought his ticket for Wednesday night in November.

“Back then it was just a dream to come to a concert, but it feels great to be back,” said Gelinas. “I’m with friends and I see old friends. Look around – there are happy crowds everywhere you look.”

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The Beaches, the rockers who won Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year in 2018, followed suit, soaking up the energy with a loud, driving set that entertained the crowd of well over 5,000 by then with their hits including Money, Want What, in Movement brought Du hast, Blow Up and Let’s Go.

The Beaches perform on the opening night of Start.ca Rocks the Park at Harris Park in London.  Photo taken Wednesday July 13, 2022. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)
The Beaches perform on the opening night of Start.ca Rocks the Park at Harris Park in London. Photo taken Wednesday July 13, 2022. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

Garbage, who had seven Grammy nominations, was sensational with her politically and emotionally charged tunes, from “Vow” to her graduation number “You Look So Fine”. The band’s line-up of Scottish singer Shirley Manson and American musicians Duke Erikson (guitar, bass, keyboards), Steve Marker (guitar, keyboards) and Butch Vig (drums, production) has remained the same since their formation in the 1990s.

They introduced a new song, Godhead, which Manson said referred to a woman’s right to choose what is right for her body, a clear reference to the fall of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court.

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Start.ca Rocks the Park continues Thursday with Glorious Sons, July Talk, Big Wreck, the Trews and Connor Gains.

Friday is Retro Night with TLC, Nelly, Aqua, Jenny Berggren from Ace of Base, 2 Live Crew and Arrested Development.

Saturday hosts FizzFest, where crowds are invited to buy tickets and sample pre-made cocktails, seltzer, cider, wines and beers from dozens of companies while being entertained with live music and DJs.

Sunday will see performances from 12-time Grammy nominee Dierks Bentley alongside fellow Grammy nominee Ashley McBryde, Canadian duo The Reklaws and American Breland with his hybrid country rap, R&B and soul music act be.

jbelanger@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JoeBatLFPress


What: Start.ca Rocks the Park, presented by Jones Entertainment Group.

When: Thursday, 4:15 p.m., Friday, 4:00 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m.; and Sunday at 4:30 p.m

Brad Roberts sings as his band Crash Test Dummies opens Start.ca Rocks the Park at Harris Park in London on Wednesday 13th July 2022.  (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)
Brad Roberts sings as his band Crash Test Dummies opens Start.ca Rocks the Park at Harris Park in London on Wednesday 13th July 2022. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

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