The Chicago Tribune reviewed Tori's August 10th Chicago, IL show in their August 11, 2003 edition.
You can read it online at metromix.chicagotribune.com or below. Thanks to jeffpriz for letting me know about it.
Unlikely duo hits pleasing chord
Earnest Amos, wry Folds share double bill on the 'Lottapianos Tour'
By Joshua Klein
Special to the Tribune
Tori Amos and Ben Folds are calling their joint summer venture the "Lottapianos Tour," and for obvious reasons. Yes, it's a play on "Lollapalooza," but it also heralds their unwieldy instrument of choice.
Pianos come and go on the pop landscape, like a fashionable accessory. But whether in sync with current trends or not, Folds and Amos tickling the ivories has always been a welcome respite from the typical bass-drums-guitar monotony of alternative rock.
Right now Folds and Amos are pretty far out of the pop spotlight, though you could hardly tell at the sold-out Auditorium Theatre Sunday night, where the pair convened for a hipper take on Elton John and Billy Joel's frequent arena couplings.
The big difference is that besides playing piano, Amos and Folds have virtually nothing in common.
She plays earnest, mystical, fantasy-filled art-rock. He plays loosely satirical crowd-pleasing ditties, part Randy Newman, part Victor Borge. But fortunately the divergent sets each met with favor from the audience, about evenly split between fans of Folds and fans of Amos.
Folds, who played first, noted how the opening slot gave him the chance to relax on stage. Just when is Folds not relaxed? In concert the guy's a constant goof, pounding at his piano and flashing silly grins.
Before his song "Army," Folds coached the crowd like a patient piano teacher into providing horn-approximating accompaniment. "Rockin' the Suburbs" took aim at rap-rock poseurs, and "They Give No [Expletive]" mocked the crass materialism and hypocrisy of upper-class America.
Most impressive, the multi-instrumentalist Folds segued from one song into a full-on drum solo, pounding away on a single drum as roadies assembled a drum kit around him, piece-by-piece.
Still, Folds can be serious when he wants to. His song "Brick," a hit for his old band Ben Folds Five, concerned the confusion and pain of getting an abortion, and "The Luckiest" was a straight-faced, sentimental love song. After that it was back to basics—which in Folds' case meant goofing around—but it's intriguing to know that beneath the mugging false modesty of his on-stage image lies a talented musician with impeccable pop instincts.
Tori Amos, on the other hand, could never sell false modesty, let alone the real thing.
A quirky virtuoso, she long ago set her own rules and has lived by them ever since. Watching Amos perform is like being sucked into someone else's world for a while, and admittedly the prospect can be daunting. Particularly queasy is Amos' most recent disc, "Scarlet's Walk," an ambitious and panoramic take on the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, that is at once surreal, profound, pretty, whimsical and more than a little bit solipsistic.
Yet placed in the context of her rapidly expanding back catalog, several of her newer tracks worked wonderfully Sunday night. "A Sorta Fairytale" played up Amos' strengths: the almost too intimate vocals, the anthemic chorus, the rhythmic pulse of her band (in this case longtime bassist Jon Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain). Chamberlain's creative polyrhythms helped enliven the offbeat country stylings of "Wednesday," and on older songs like "God" and "Cornflake Girl" he and Evans locked into elastic funk grooves that both supported and enhanced Amos' flights of fantasy.
But as usual, Amos was at her best when she sat along at her piano and played sans accompaniment.
Though her voice was laden with too much reverb to make much of her lyrics, her singing remains supple and distinctive, and her unconventional melodic sense is that times ten.
The beautiful "Crazy" shimmered in stripped-down form, with Amos straddling her bench and delivering her song like she was channeling her spirit directly into the souls of her rapt fans.