Tori Amos is an excellent songstress and musician - you can learn that by listening to her albums. But only in person do you really get to hear the power and majesty of her voice and emotion. Old favorites like "Silent All These Years" and "Pretty Good Year" were even more breathtaking as Tori went solo with her piano. And those bound to become new favorites from her latest release, such as "Give" and "Strong Black Vine" had the audience on their feet and roaring with approval.
The venue itself was perfect for her delivery, surrounded by lushness of another age in the State Theater in Minneapolis. The set designers and techs were spot on with some breathtaking lighting displays that did nothing to distract, but everything to shine the spotlight perfectly on Tori herself. The only complaint was the footlights that flashed directly at the audience at times, nearly blinding those of us on the main floor.
The whole experience was orchestrated to bring you along with Tori as she stepped through the frequently ersatz landscape that drives her music.
Opening act(s): I would be remiss if I did not include a footnote regarding One EskimO. Not merely "just" an opening act, One EskimO set the stage magnificently for Tori's set, with soaring instrumentals and Kristian Leontiou's amazing vocals.
Warning! Nostalgia ahead:
On the way to the theater, Shoryl and I followed a group of young women. The layered clothing and slouching, rolling walk were the same as I remembered. I could have been going to a concert for any alternative band from high school. I smiled at the smell of clove cigarettes. The audience seemed comprised of these disenfranchised teens - and those of us (and I do include myself) who were the disenfranchised teens of the 90s.
Tori Amos came into my life the same way most of the music of that time period did - lying on a mattress on the other side of town next to the boy I was wholly infatuated with, listening to Tori Amos, The Cure, Alice in Chains, Primus … It was all new. We were doing deliciously adult things (we thought). Listening to the music, thinking about how the world worked, what we would do with it, what it was doing to us. And yes, some of those other “adult things,” too.
With their nine-inch nails
And little fascist panties
Tucked inside the heart
Of every nice girl
And there was Tori singing, about, as one reviewer put it, “sexual and spiritual angst.”
And when they say "take of his body"
I think I'll take from mine instead
I didn’t have any spiritual angst, and sexual angst was just over the horizon, but it still spoke to that free floating, existential angst that you pick up from the atmosphere as a 16 year old girl. I look at my sister who’s now at that stage, and while we don’t have much in common personality-wise … yeah, I see it again.
They say you get stuck in the fashions of your high school years. Each song from Little Earthquakes or Under the Pink made me think fondly of where I was when that music was still a little daring, hinting at things I hadn’t really figured out yet.
When she began the opening notes to “Silent All These Years,” it all came back. Walking to his house in the middle of the night and climbing through the window, running off to a park in the middle of an afternoon, sneaking into the ballroom of the convention center to make out in a storage closet. It was all there, waiting for me, with her music.
But after that one intoxicating summer, other things and other people caught my attention. I drifted away from the angst of the alternative crowd to country music. Where I could still have melodic angst, but sometimes got to have rousing, foot-stomping happy moments too. I lost track of Tori Amos and the other artists of that time and place.
Her music came back to me, as many of those bands have, with Shoryl. My beloved audiophile, with whom I’ve revisited, reassessed, relearned what I love about music, and that time in music in particular.
And then, when she played some of the songs from her latest album, it came to me how far I’d traveled from the person that had first heard her music. Tori’s early albums had said something new to me, something that, as a teenager, I was just stepping into. She’s still pushing out the angst, and when sex and religion collide, it still produces her best music. “Strong Black Vine” hearkens neatly back to “Icicle.”
tie you down cause boy I can
save you from that evil faith
Leaving, I was reminded that I am not, in fact, seventeen anymore. And while I would not give up the wondrous and ever surprising nature of my relationship with Shoryl for those tumultuous months with Brad, I could wish that I was still young enough to come out of a concert without yawning and noting with some unpleasantness that it was 10:30, and already half an hour past my bedtime.
They say you were something in those formative years
Hold onto nothing
As fast as you can
Well still pretty good year