Billboard Magazine reviewed Tori's November 13, 2002 show at the Riverside Church in New York, NY and posted it to Billboard.com on November 14, 2002. Please read it at Billboard.com or below. Thanks to Michelle Gatton, DrivAnothrNailIn, and Kevin for the information.
Tori Amos / Nov. 13, 2002 / New York (Riverside Church)
A gothic cathedral is hardly a common setting for a concert, but nonetheless, last night (Nov. 13), New York's massive nondenominational Riverside Church housed one of the more unique concerts of Tori Amos' ongoing tour in support of her latest album, "Scarlet's Walk" (Epic).
Perhaps it was fitting, as Amos is the rebellious daughter of a minister and has openly questioned organized religion and a higher power in the lyrics of her songs. It's for those reasons that the irony of such songs as "Crucify" and "Mrs. Jesus" was not lost on either the performer or her fawning audience.
Following a bland solo set by opener Howie Day, Amos began her show singing a capella from offstage -- in this case, the church's enormous altar -- the lines of the new album's "Wampum Song." Strolling out in front of a large cross that is the centerpiece of the edifice, Amos was greeted by a standing ovation from the fans lining the pews, and launched her piano and organ into another "Scarlet" track, "Pancake," accompanied only by bassist John Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain.
The set played heavily on new songs, with "Amber Waves," "Wednesday," "Strange," "Sweet Sangria," "I Can't See New York," and the title track all included in the 25-song concert. With the album in stores for just more than two weeks, only a few were met with the frantic, ecstatic cheers that older songs drew through their opening bars, but all were well received upon completion.
"To be together in a church... wow!" Amos declared in her only address to the crowd during the show, some 10 songs into the set. As Chamberlain and Evans left the stage, she explained that "backstage" in the women's choir room, her amused father noted that she'd "come full circle" to perform in the church.
That left her alone to perform a trio of songs at the piano: "China," "Cool on Your Island," and "Cooling." While the entire performance could be considered very good, if not excellent, it was this interlude that was undoubtedly the best sounding portion of the night, as the trio's amplified output often resulted in lost nuances -- namely the clarity of Amos' vocals -- as it ricocheted off of the stone walls and pillars, and stained glass windows.
It's there and in the fanciful lighting (and its large, gleaming silver rigging) that Amos and her crew failed their environment. Instead of embracing the room's abilities to carry even the slightest sounds and magnify her often soaring voice and stupendous piano skills, the band forced an avalanche of sound at a high volume, resulting in a mix that was too often muddy despite the sound engineers' best efforts.
Similarly, when simply lit, the altar of the Riverside became ablaze in transcendent splendor (with the red glow of the center cross particularly ominous during "Crucify"), with Amos as its glorious focus. More often, though, a series of robotic spotlights -- hung from an enormous rig that blocked the view of the ornate details above and behind the altar -- beamed haphazardly throughout the church, distracting from the setting, which came off especially badly when a faux stained glass pattern was projected onto the walls and crowd.
A pair of encores opened with "Leather," from Amos' first solo album, 1991's "Little Earthquakes." With lines such as "I can scream as loud as your last one, but I can't claim innocence," Amos remained unafraid of tempting the fates throughout her church concert, which also included plenty of typically suggestive writhing on her piano bench, and a well-placed grab of her crotch during "Take to the Sky."
Well, at least she held back from performing "God" ("God sometimes you just don't come through").
(Amos' North American tour continues in more traditional venues tomorrow (Nov. 15) at Camden, N.J.'s Tweeter Center at the Waterfront, and will last through a pair of shows March 6 and 7 at New York's Radio City Music Hall.)
Here is Amos' Riverside Church set list:
"Take to the Sky"
"Cool on Your Island"
"A Sorta Fairytale"
"I Can't See New York"
"Tear in Your Hand"
-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.