This article is a preview to Tori playing at the Shea's Performing Arts Center on March 13, 2003.
Thanks to Mary Alice for alerting The Dent to it. The Artvoice is an artsy weekly paper in Buffalo, NY. You can read it online or below.
Tori Amos: Fire-Haired Rock Star to Play Shea's
by Matthew Holota
There's this joke I like to pull on my female friends. I "pretend" that there's a massive conspiracy by the White Man to do what we do best, which is, naturally, control the world and frustrate everyone who is not a White Man. Along with claiming that we have giant underground halls filled with ping-pong and air hockey tables, I love to tell the women I know (which ain't many, seeing as I'm such an asshole) that Tori Amos is not real. We created her, like kings and emperors create religions; to mollify their oppressed peoples.
"She's really a model from Sweden," I say. "Phil Collins actually writes all of her songs." It drives my friends insane with rage.
I joke not to diminish Amos' supreme talent and dignity, or the very real inspiration she provides to millions of women across the world. I joke because it seems that no other artist is as threatening to American masculinity than Tori Amos, and there is not a single funnier sight in the world than a squirming white man. Her music is one of the few things in this country that is not specifically made for the ruling demographic of males between the ages of 18-35. She's a multiplatinum-selling artist, and yet receives close to zero radio or MTV support. You won't hear Mr. Voice on 103.3 The Edge shouting at you to "GO SEE TORI AMOS AT SHEA'S PERFORRRRRMING ARTS CENTER!" Taproot fans wouldn't be able to change the station quickly enough.
But anyone who would appall Taproot fans is more than alright in my book. In fact, my appreciation for Tori Amos has been growing over the years to the point where I now consider myself a casual fan. I'm far from being an expert, but I can follow her different periods and musical experiments. Little Earthquakes was her stark solo debut with a strong emphasis on her voice and her piano. Under The Pink is the undeniable classic with her biggest hits ("Cornflake Girl" and "Past the Mission" among others), and the most devotion paid by fans. From the Choirgirl Hotel brought in a full band and the occasional electronically-heavy track (Madonna dreams about writing a floor-pounder like "Raspberry Swirl"). And, of course, there's the Lou-Reed-sized mistake that was Tori's concept/cover album Strange Little Girls (although that chilly cover of Eminem's "97 Bonnie & Clyde" proved the album's point with a creepy clarity).
Whatever ill will was established with that album would be quickly washed away by two important mitigating factors. The first is that Strange Little Girls was the last album Amos made for Atlantic Records, and the reasoning follows that an artist shouldn't, essentially, waste a full album of new material if the company will ignore its release. The second mitigating factor is that Sony/Epic wisely picked up Amos and swiftly released the 18-track, all-new, all-great Scarlet's Walk.
The new album easily stands with Amos' best work, and includes what could be her catchiest song ever. "A Sorta Fairytale" is undoubtedly a raging hit on some ultra-cool parallel universe where Whitney Houston can't even hit the notes to "Happy Birthday To You" and Vanessa Carlton is waiting tables at a Jack Astor's. Alas, the song did not land Tori on Total Request Live, which would have been great just to see Carson Daly freak the fuck out and lose his mind in front of millions of lame teenagers. Sigh. The world of my dreams is so far from reality.
Having taken my time to properly understand all of this has only increased my keen interest in seeing Tori play on Shea's stage. I first saw her live only a few short months ago. while perched atop the Air Canada Centre's nosebleed seats and Amos was a speck on a stage. A speck that ruled with a stunning, once-in-a-generation voice that gripped the entire crowd, but her form still just a well-lit dot in a sea of Canadians.
Arena shows may work for Amos' bombastic contemporaries like Nine Inch Nails and Tool (both Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan have lent their backing vocals to different versions of "Past the Mission," which I think helps their credibility), but seeing the back of a redheaded dot at a few hundred yards above floor-level doesn't really help the casual fan to connect with what's going on. Which is why I was very glad to hear that Tori Amos was going to be playing Shea's Performing Arts Center on March 13. It's a great venue to see her in, and the newest album proves that she's on a roll.
Scarlet's Walk is the post-September 11 album for music listeners who want more than dramatically somber tales of lost firefighters and other heart-tugging rock 'n' roll pathos designed to win a boatload of Grammys (you know who you are). It's also the only post-9/11 album to feature a lyric about wanting to smack Oliver Stone. I swear I thought I was hearing that line wrong for months until someone told me that she was, indeed, singing about the famed director of Al Pacino football movies.
Tori Amos is rock 'n' roll. You won't catch her clutching an acoustic guitar and singing about flying high in the sky. She got kicked out of music school for wanting to rock! When was the last time you looked at a rock star's face and saw something that was just a little bit feral? A little bit dangerous? Sure, she doesn't have a logo that looks good on a t-shirt, but look where that's gotten Guns 'N' Roses: no Slash and a fat Axl.
There is a reason that almost every single Tori fan I know has seen her live close to, or above, a half-dozen times. Hell, I'm going to see her for a second time this year, and I only bought my first Tori album a short while ago. She's a performer who doesn't need huge video screens displaying weird goth art to hold the audience's attention. Just give her some good sight lines and a great theatre, and it's easy to understand why Tori earns fans for life.
And, speaking to the dudes out there (assuming that you've gotten this far and aren't reading "News of the Weird"), I know that Tori is something that your girlfriend listens to and it gets your nose all out of joint because you're a scared little bunny rabbit, but you're missing out on a great opportunity for your liberation. Throw down your shackles, my brother, and join your sisters in their moment of glory. If you're still having a problem, just tell yourself that her songs were written by the guy who wrote "Invisible Touch."
But everyone else knows better.
Tori Amos performs at Shea's Performing Arts Center on Thursday, March 13 at 7:30 pm. To order tickets, call Shea's Box Office at 847-1410.
And On A Totally Different Tip...
To make the Tori concert even more exciting is the fact that the opening act will be Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller, currently touring to support his solo debut The Instigator. It was my favorite pop album of last year, and few people have set white male heartbreak to such wonderfully catchy songs.
After seeing Miller on TV several times, I'm convinced that the man is actually a Muppet. His arms and legs are long and thin, and he bounces around on them as if they were springs. Miller's wide eyes and beak nose make him even more puppet-like, but the power of rock is such that even funny-looking guys can set the ladies' hearts afire (except for the singer of Soundtrack of Our Lives-- don't you have a re-run of Home Improvement to be appearing on?).
Miller's band, Old 97s, has always flirted with the poppy side of the alt-country genre, so it was natural that Miller would take a break from the band to make a solo record with the producer of Aimee Mann and Fiona Apple's best records. It worked. The Instigator has a lot of joyous ear candy in the form of fast-paced foot-tappers like "Our Love" and "Four-Eyed Girl," and solo acoustic ballads like "Terrible Vision." His vocals always sound astoundingly heartfelt and absolutely true. Opening for Tori Amos could expose him to a completely new audience, and his light touch will provide a perfect introduction to Tori's always-epic live set.