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The Georgia Straight
December 11, 2002

Added January 4, 2003

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Mr Zebra sent me the following review of Tori's December 9, 2002 concert in Vancouver, B.C. from a weekly arts and entertainment newspaper in Vancouver called The Georgia Straight. I think it was the December 11, 2002 issue, but I am not 100% sure of that.

Otherworldly Amos Beguiles

The singer-pianist proves herself both esoteric and earthy

Tori Amos casts a loving gaze at an audience full of her rapturously adoring fans. Kevin Statham photo.

Tori Amos
At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Monday, December 9

By Alexander Varty

Scarlet's Walk, the new CD from Tori Amos, gives itself up slowly. Between its smoky, muted sound and Amos's breathy voice, its songs reveal themselves a phrase at a time, and although the singer has described the disc as a travelogue of sorts, it fails to convey much sense of forward motion. If there is a journey to be followed here, it has not yet become apparent to this listener. Maybe I'm just slow. But I've been enjoying the record anyway; it falls around the shoulders with the comforting weight of a warm duvet and caresses the ears like a summer breeze.

Listening to Scarlet's Walk is first and foremost a sensuous experience, and the same was true of Amos's Monday-night performance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Were I asked about highlights, I'd be hard-pressed to identify any. The same, though, is true of disappointments, other than that Amos neglected to play "Don't Make Me Come to Vegas", the most tuneful, and overtly commercial, song on her new disc. The concert was unusually uniform in tone; even when bassist Jon Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain left the stage to allow Amos a midset solo turn, things continued at pretty much the same level of intensity.

From almost any other artist, this might have become tedious. Amos, however, has an unusual ability to beguile her listeners, and from the opening "Wampum Prayer" to the final "Putting the Damage On", which came at the end of two lengthy encores, we fell willingly under her spell. In fact, I've rarely seen an audience so uniformly in love with a performer: men, women, and even dogs--there to accompany a pair of sightless fans--gazed adoringly stageward as if in the presence of a miraculous apparition.

Otherworldly Amos might be, but she underpins her more esoteric tendencies with an earthiness that emerges most fully in her piano-playing. However obscure or fanciful her lyrics might get, when she slams her fingers onto her Bsendorfer's keys it's obvious that her music expresses a profound physicality. Yet she's also capable of surprisingly delicate ornamentations and trills, and in this she was matched by her capable rhythm section. Chamberlain is one of rock's premier percussionists; at times his stick work was so thickly textured it seemed as if he had grown an extra limb, but he also demonstrated a jazzy command of the brushes. Evans is less celebrated but no less accomplished; particularly impressive was the way he used electronics and altered tunings to suggest the strings and synthesizers that add subtle colour to the studio versions of Amos's new songs. There are some beautiful guitar parts on Scarlet's Walk, but they were not missed here.

Sony protg Howie Day opened the evening with a brief solo set that prompted conflicting emotions. With his black T-shirt and carefully spiked hair he looked like he'd been couriered in from Rent-A-Rockstar, and his songs were almost painfully generic in their avoidance of anything resembling lyrical insight. But he's a master of stagecraft: slapping the body of his acoustic guitar for percussive effect and using a variety of looping delays and digital processors, he summoned up the sound of a full band, complete with powerful bass riffs and soaring harmonies. For that alone Day deserved his standing ovation, an honour only rarely accorded an opening act and one that suggests he's got a bright future.

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