Massachusetts Daily Collegian
Lucy sent me a review of Tori's November 19, 2002 concert in Lowell, MA from the November 26, 2002 edition of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian which came to her via U-Wire. You can read it below or online at dailycollegian.com. (Thanks to Richard Handal for the URL.)
Amos weaves her fairy tale for an enthusiastic crowd
Last Tuesday evening, people flocked to Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Mass., all drawn by a common adoration for Tori Amos. Crowds waited in line outside with tickets clutched eagerly in hand as breaths filled the frigid air with ephemeral clouds of anticipation.
I could feel my heart racing as the gates were dropped as we were allowed inside, for this was to be my first time seeing Amos in person, a far cry from the limitations imposed by my CD player.
We all gathered into the venue and found our respective seats only to wait even longer, for the preparations were running later than expected. In fact, the delay apparently caused the deletion of Amos' opening act for the evening, Howie Day (a 21-year-old crooner and label mate from Bangor, Maine). As a musician myself who has toured as the opening act for a band, I felt rather sympathetic towards him and upset that I was not able to hear this up-and-coming songwriter, but also guilty that my desires to see Amos' graceful form take to the stage overshadowed all other emotions during my pre-emptive expectations.
With little warning, the lights in the arena cut to black, and Amos' soothing "Wampum Prayer," an a capella song from her new album "Scarlet's Walk," filled our ears. After this sullen introduction, the red curtain dropped and her drummer and bassist sparked their distinct sound into a lilting groove. Amos then ran onto the stage with a smiling countenance and bowed graciously to the audience, bringing her hands together in a prayer-like gesture of appreciation. She then sought out the spiritual extension that is her piano and as she set her fingers to the keys, blossoms of her unique keyboard stylings began to unfold into the opening verse of "A Sorta Fairytale," the first single to be released from "Scarlet's Walk."
She then moved smoothly into "Sugar," a live favorite of many fans. She then launched into "Crucify," a song from her major debut album that was many people's first exposure to her sometimes difficult but exquisitely mature world of sound and imagery. Her extended performance of the song traversed what must have been 10 minutes, and was without a doubt the most emotional part of the evening for myself and many others. Not only did it have an immense nostalgic value, but the passion with which she played it was still as alive, if not more so, as when it was written.
After this harrowing performance, she migrated seamlessly into an eclectic mix of songs, including "Crazy," also from the new album, and "Take to the Sky," a limited B-side that was exhilarating to experience live. Upon singing "Wednesday" the other musicians left the stage and she played a few songs alone at the piano. She began this set by singing a lovely little song in which she compared the concert hall to a living room in a successful attempt at creating a more intimate performance space, bringing us closer to her realm of deep expressionism.
While she did this, a small sign dropped down from above the stage and lit up, reading, "Roadside Cafe." This made the atmosphere even more familiar, as if to be a concert within a concert. The subsequent solo set included "Silent All These Years," "Cloud on my Tongue," and her delicate rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat."
There has been some debate among Amos devotees as to how her solo performances compare to their accompanied counterparts. Many believe that when she plays with her piano solely at hand it is "pure" Amos, making any other musician a superfluous addition, and so those who share this opinion were given a treat during this section of the concert.
I believe that Amos' essence shines through regardless of the instrumental setting. After her bandmates returned to the stage, they finished the main part of the show with a dynamic variety of songs, pairing such unlikely sisters as "Caught a Lite Sneeze" and "Pancake," and ending with "Spring Haze." They then left the stage, but returned to play five encores for our unsatisfied ears, including the ever-popular "Cornflake Girl." The concert ended at last, after two-and-a-half hours, with "Hey Jupiter."
Overall, the performance was filled with intoxicating vibes. Amos exuded the verve of a laughing child, often getting up to dance when her supporting musicians played a long intro between songs. Amos' energy when playing and singing was palpable even from our seats near the rear of the arena, and her musicianship was at a peak of brilliance. For at least two songs, she played a piano behind her with one hand and an organ in front of her with the other, while singing simultaneously.
At times, the dramatic rhythms of the drums and the muddy drift of the bass drowned Amos' voice, but such moments were quickly corrected by her attentive sound crew with a quick turn of a knob on the mixing board. The trio was very unified on stage, the drummer being especially vital in creating a tangible pulse throughout the evening.
While this tour is promoting her recently released "Scarlet's Walk," an important, compelling album that was conceived as a personal portrait and reflection of America in the wake of Sept. 11, it was wonderful to see that Amos still included some older songs and fan favorites within the program.
The crowd was vibrant and overflowing with admiration for an artist who, over the years, has managed to strip her soul to its bare essentials and offer it to us in melodic form, one enlightening detail at a time, making for a most beautiful and unforgettable musical experience for all who were there.
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