As I reported earlier, Tori did a taping for XM radio on Wednesday, August 24, 2005 at the XM Studios in Washington, DC. This recording session was part of XM's Artist Confidential Series, which are intimate talk and music programs with various recording artists. We do not know when this special will be Broadcast on XM Radio yet, but we do have details about the taping from some Toriphiles who were there.
Details about the August 24, 2005 XM Radio taping for the Artist Confidential Series:
Just wanted to let you know that tori performed at the xm taping:
Sleeps With Butterflies
Cars And Guitars
Sweet The Sting
She was supposed to do a song instead of Ribbons Undone (I think it was Siren, but I wasn't insanely close to the setlist to see it very well... maybe someone else knows.)
There was more talking than playing... but Sleeps With Butterflies was really beautiful. She mentioned that she doesn't want to try to translate songs that "are more about technology" to the piano for her live tour (in particular, she said, Iieee) because they intimidate her and because the songs tell her not to go there. She also mentioned how she's been working on several songs for 9 years, like "To The Fair Motormaids Of Japan"... and how her new album is a reaction to how kind of... upset she is that this generation is being subjected to what's going on right now. How we have to make unfair choices suddenly like "what are we willing to die for?" She says that she has a "Warrior Woman" inside of her that will come out on the next record.
It was a pretty good time! There were a lot of regular super-fans there who kind of tried to make the show about themselves, rather than tori's work... Besides that, the host seemed to ignore her previous works entirely and completely concentrate on talking about the Beekeeper. I was a bit disappointed that no one was talking about any of the other albums... other than that, though... the intimacy of the show couldn't be beat. It was gorgeous. :)
I just got back from the XM Radio recording in D.C. and thought I'd write up a little book report. (Or performance report, if you insist.) I may have mangled some of the details--for example, for some reason I can't quite recall whether she played Sweet the Sting or Cars and Guitars first, but this should be at least somewhat accurate.
In brief, the set list included Sleeps with Butterflies, Sweet the Sting, Cars and Guitars and Ribbons Undone (the last diverging from the original set list).
Here are some details:
Everyone arrived early and waited patiently in the lobby. We were told to be there no later than 10:45, but Tori was running late (as we were told to expect), and we were ushered up to the studio after being told by lots of people to turn off our cell phones. After a little warm-up--we were told the session would be taped for broadcast sometime next month, but not videotaped, and that there would be some audience Q&A--Tori walked in looking absolutely gorgeous. I've seen her up close a few times, and I think she's actually getting better with age...or maybe motherhood and England agree with her?
She sat down and the host wished her a happy birthday and asked what she was given. She gave a long answer, explaining that she's hard to shop for and doesn't wear a lot of "bling," other than her necklaces and her engagement and wedding bands, and then said something about her new Razor cell phone that she doesn't know how to use. A little more banter, then she played Sleeps with Butterflies.
Someone in the audience asked Tori about her politics, especially as relate to Tombigbee, and she detailed a really moving account of an ancestor of hers, a young Cherokee woman around age 16 or 17, who survived in the woods when her family was killed, and how she smelled blood. I'm not going to attempt to give all the details here, but this story alone would make an XM subscription worth it, in my opinion.
I believe that Tori at this time played Sweet the Sting, claiming she felt like a 300-pound black man. It was interesting to hear STS played on a piano...very different vibe. Tori also commented that her piano is a baby grand and she's learning from her big sister (the touring Bosendorfer), but that (she whispered here) her big sister just has a breadth that the little sister never will.
Then a young woman named Phyllis (who I met today through Patrick--PS: Sorry I ran off after the show, but I was a bit freaked out! I'll explain why in a minute...) asked Tori about how she always performs so magically. Tori told a story about how a talented young "Pop Idol" came backstage after a show and asked Tori how it feels to be on stage and have everyone looking at her every night--to explain how that feels. Tori said she replied "have you ever tried looking back?" and said the young woman didn't answer, but instead just left. She now has a hit album.
After this, another young woman said she has been a fan of Tori's for 12 years, to which Tori replied "Twelve years?? Were you listening in utero?" After a giggle, she asked Tori about how she writes and composes and how she knows when a song is done. Tori said she writes most things in the shower, but that when a song is coming to her it keeps tapping her on the shoulder and nags her. She said she can be in a movie and tells Husband "get up get up get up get up get up" and he says "getdowngetdowngetdowngetdowngetdown."
The interviewer asked Tori about Cars and Guitars and she explained that sometimes she just wants to escape--to run away from her family. She said that women, particularly mothers, have so much to put up with and have more stress to bear than almost anyone, but that you can't just drive away. She said it occurred to her that if she becomes a car, her husband can fit inside of her, and that's what the song is about. Then she started playing it.
Cha-cha-cha-cha cha cha...then she stopped. She had to put her headphones on. Cha-cha-cha-cha cha cha...then she stopped. She wanted a different sound...more like an engine! Marcel fixed the mic to her liking and she went for it. It was a really great performance, with some soaring "keep on driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-yi-ving" vocals toward the end.
Then someone...oh wait, it was ME!...asked another question. I'm really nervous in person, but I had a favor to ask of her. I told Tori that I sat next to her parents at a Scarlet's Walk concert back in 2001 at George Mason University, where I'm currently a graduate writing student, and that I talked briefly with her mother about her amazing lyrics. I also told her that I was completely distracted during the concert because I was watching her parents watch her, which to this day is the most moving thing I've ever seen. There was such concentration and respect on their faces for their daughter, and it just tore me up inside to think of how proud they must be. I didn't say all that, though. I did tell her that I am a creative writing student and that I regard Tori as a remarkable literary figure, and asked if she would consider publishing her works as a collection of poetry so it could be taught alongside other highly regarded works. I was really nervous, but it's actually something very important to me because I've always cited Tori as my favorite poet in classes, and I have often been met with somewhat disrespectful or simply dismissive reactions, as people explain to me that we don't study music in poetry class. Tori belongs on my bookshelf next to Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, so I just had to make the request. Anyway, I told her that Ribbons Undone seems lyrically simple at first but really unfolded to me as I began to see her mother's face watching her in my memory, and that the song became complex and remains so to me. She said she learned to appreciate and love words from her mother, who was a literature major, and that she'd play the song for me--then she said "Change of plans, Marcel" and played a gorgeous rendition that blew my mind. It doesn't get better than that. But I'm really shy and introverted, so it kinda freaked me out and I ran outta there as fast as I could after the session.
Before that, though, the interviewer asked Tori about her opinion on various other artists, ranging from Bob Dylan (she said he's (paraphrasing) one of the rarest kind of people who can be a visionary and have a popular appeal at the same time) to Elton John (he and Bernie Taubin deserve recognition for bringing the operetta to the mainstream). To my surprise, the interviewer also asked about Laura Nyro, and Tori said Laura doesn't receive the recognition she deserves for changing music with an entirely new sound. Last month I requested that Tori play "And When I Die" or "Stony End" (both by Laura Nyro) at tonight's Baltimore concert. I suppose it's too much to ask for more than one song in one day...
As a writer and painter, I feel privileged to have been able to see the person who has most influenced by artistic and intellectual worlds in such a small, intimate setting, and it's a day I'll never forget. I'm going out to buy XM tomorrow afternoon.