Tori Amos | 11.09.07

live_tori1_sm.jpgHer lips smear blood-red lipstick on her microphone as she sings, and she’s not the kind of girl to cross her legs before she sits down, or after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo: Joanna Kleine

 

 

 

 

University of Kansas Lied Center, Lawrence, Kan.

See more photos from the concert in FLICKS 

"Toriphyles" from Little Earthquakes and American Doll Posse alike got their fix with a masterful and energetic performance put on by Amos, her Bosendorfer and the guys on a Friday evening at the Lied Center in Lawrence, Kan. It’s no secret that Amos has a loyal—some would even say rabid—fan base; and no matter where they jumped on along her 15-year career, there seems to be a general sentiment that she is right now at the top of her game.

One great thing about being a fan of Tori Amos is that she always keeps you guessing. It is impossible to predict the tone of any of her highly anticipated new albums, and attempts to categorize her music have landed her in both the Blues and Alternative Punk categories. American Doll Posse, her latest release, is solid, with diverse tracks in which she confidently wears several hats, as do a few friends/alter-egos named Pip, Santa, Clyde and Isabel, who evidently co-wrote the album with Amos. Isabel revisits the sentimental "girl and her piano" with the opening track "Yo George," a number about our current administration. "I salute to you, commander, and I sneeze/ ‘Cause I have, now, an allergy to your policies it seems." Next up is a little pop-folk with "Big Wheel," followed by "Bouncing off Clouds," and "Teenage Hustling," both of which have definite pop elements. Pip’s 41 second "Fat Slut" interlude is disturbing, but that’s okay because "Girl Disappearing" directly follows, showcasing the gentle, feminine side of Amos’ voice, and the skill of her stand up bassist Jon Evans.

More so than many of her other albums, American Doll Posse utilizes a number of instruments, including the mandolin in "Devils and Gods," digital beats in "Digital Ghosts," lots of Matt Chamberlin percussion all over the place, and, of course, heavy on the Bosendorfer and Amos’ mesmerizing voice(s).

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The album as a whole is fluid, and seems to manifest all of what is strong in all of her previous albums. There is no vulnerable Amos to be found on this album. It’s as if she’s figured something out, after all these years, and has either learned to accept it, or is pissed about it. Either way, American Doll Posse is not short on emotion. Each track, as always, is a journey that doesn’t always have a destination in mind, but certainly stops and takes a close look at things along the way.

Tori commands full attention while she is performing, as she is arguably just as skilled on her instrument as, say, BB King or Miles Davis on theirs. Tori Amos and the piano are synonymous. Take "Bo," as she affectionately calls her Bosendorfer, from the equation, and Amos would be a mere shell of herself, save the hypnotizing voice. There is an undeniable sensuality that radiates from Amos as she plays—two pianos at once a good portion of the time. Her lips smear blood-red lipstick on her microphone as she sings, and she’s not the kind of girl to cross her legs before she sits down, or after. She owns any stage she graces, as was the case in Lawrence, a town of which Tori is admittedly quite fond.

Having attended around 15 Tori Amos shows, this one was a decided favorite. I was taken aback a number of times, in a beautiful way. Emotion was thick through the at-capacity room, and there was a noticeable strength in Amos’ voice. Her confidence resonated through the theater, even through delicate numbers like "Frog on My Toe," from the Talula EP, and powerfully through fiery tracks like "Precious Things," from her first release, Little Earthquakes, and "Body and Soul" from her newest.

When Amos, after five or six numbers, ducked backstage for a wardrobe change during a "Professional Widow" electronic jam session to emerge clad in a blue-sequined pantsuit, I knew we were in for it. For some reason, she completely avoided playing from the albums between 1998 and 2001, although that had no impact on the intensity of the show. She remains loyal to many of the songs (or "strange little girls," as she has called them), from Little Earthquakes, performing, to the old-school fan’s delight, "Crucify," "Leather," "Little Earthquakes," a gorgeous, bluesy rendition of "Mother," and ending the evening during an encore with "Precious Things."

For those in attendance who were on the fence about whether or not they knew who the hell Tori Amos was, "Cornflake Girl," put an "Oh, yeah, her," look on a few faces. "Caught a Lite Sneeze," along with "Sugar," "Little Amsterdam," and "Code Red," all set a lascivious tone to the performance, and "A Sorta Fairytale," "Roosterspur Bridge," and "Sugar" brought tears to our eyes, in a way that no one but Amos can.

When you’re spiritually connected to a musician or a band, there’s no doubt that seeing that musician or band in their element, performing live, changes you, even if just a tiny bit, for the better. Whether it’s discovering, finally, how to execute an elusive guitar skill, confirming your passionate attraction to horn players, or simply seeking refuge from one sphere of chaos or another, there is nothing like live music to remind you of the blood rushing through your veins. Amos’ music is blatantly introspective; she has never intended for us to understand her lyrics at all times, or even half the time. That’s what is so authentic about her as an artist: she uses her music, her strange little girls, to work out what she needs to in her head, to preserve her sanity. The raw emotion in her music naturally lends itself to being performed live, each song evolving further, through each execution, in pursuit of some sort of resolution. She possesses a unique energy that is inviting yet just out of your reach, which keeps you coming back for more. Hopefully, sometime soon, it will lead me to St. Louis. How ’bout it, Tori? | Joanna Kleine

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