Many thanks to Woj for making me aware of this press review. Read it online at rapidcityjournal.com or below if the link is expired.
Review: S.D. connection made Amos' gig special
By Ruth Milne, Journal Staff Writer
South Dakota doesn't get sung about very often.
John Linnell's "State Songs" album inexplicably devotes an entire song to Arkansas but overlooks the Dakotas, and the Liz Phair song "South Dakota" is, to say the least, unflattering (and unprintable).
So when Tori Amos sent fictional character Scarlet to the Wounded Knee memorial in her latest album, "Scarlet's Walk," it was cause for celebration.
Amos played Wednesday evening at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The concert was unexpectedly small - only about a quarter of the Barnett auditorium was used - but the intimacy was a nice surprise.
As the lights went down, a guy in jeans and a plaid shirt wandered out in front of the curtains, cleared his throat and began singing.
Opening act Rhett Miller, lead singer for the band Old 97's, was touring to promote a recently released solo album. He did a short set of quirky indie-country songs with absolutely no theatrics; he might as well have been singing in a coffee shop.
The Texan sang and played his acoustic guitar like a slightly more vigorous Beck, and he looked rather like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. He was informal and entirely enjoyable, and I felt a little guilty about how happy I felt when he left the stage - but Tori Amos was on her way out.
"Tori" is not her real name. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but I doubt the audience would have cheered so loudly for Myra Amos.
In the darkness of the auditorium, the curtain still shielding the stage, Tori's voice soared in the words of the "Wampum Prayer." She has a lovely voice - husky, lilting, sweet and womanly, with none of that silly-little-girl routine championed by Britney Spears and so many others.
As the song ended, the curtain dropped to reveal a stage set with a grand piano and an organ facing each other, one bench between them. Tori walked onstage and sat at the piano.
It's hard to describe Tori Amos without making her sound like a circus clown. A petite woman with a mane of shaggy red hair, she wore a sequined, multi-colored, robe-like garment with floor-length gauze sleeves, one red and one yellow. Below that were frayed jeans and knee-high black boots. She's a stunning, eccentric little pixie; Liberace would fade into the background next to Tori.
She began with "A Sorta Fairytale," from her most recent album, and "Little Earthquakes," the title track from her brilliant 1992 debut. "Give me life/give me pain/give me myself again," she sang, backed by a bass guitarist, a drummer and her own extraordinary piano playing.
Tori didn't always sit down to play (this is not a crack about how short she is); she bobbed and swayed and tossed her hair, seeming to have too much passion to stay seated. I was pleased to hear several of her older songs - like many other fans, I adore her earlier spare, confessional piano ballads.
The guitarist and drummer left the stage, leaving Tori alone to play "Caught a Lite Sneeze" from the 1996 album "Boys for Pele." It's an anguished cry over a torrent of piano notes - "Dreamed a little dream/made my own pretty hate machine/boys on my left side/boys on my right side/boys in the middle/and you're ... not ... here ...."
Seated between piano and organ, Tori twirled from one to the other, sometimes even reaching behind her back to play both instruments at once.
After playing "Wednesday," a bouncy song off Scarlet's Walk that echoes the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," the lights turned low, and in a spotlight, she crooned Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit." The song that first tore from the throat of a suicidal man drifted like a feather on her whispers. "With the lights down, it's less dangerous ...."
"Carbon," about an epiphany at Wounded Knee, came next, followed by a rippling version of "Silent All These Years." With a broad grin she sang, "So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts. What's so amazing about really deep thoughts?"
I've got an answer - they lead to lyrics like Tori's.
After she left the stage, the crowd cheered for an encore. The whole routine struck me as silly - the lights didn't come on, and everybody knew she was coming back out, so why did she leave the stage in the first place?
"Maybe she had a whole bunch of songs she wanted to be the last song, and she just couldn't decide," the guy next to me said. I suppose it's as good a reason as any.
At any rate, after two encores, the lights came on and the concert was really over.
Scarlet traveled all over America on "Scarlet's Walk," and I'm happy she (and Tori) took the time to stop and appreciate South Dakota.
Contact Ruth Milne at 394-8420 or firstname.lastname@example.org