Read a concert review of Tori's Raleigh, NC show that appeared in the September 2, 2003 edition of the Raleigh News & Observer.
Thanks to Kelly Gay for alerting me to this article. You can read it online at news-observer.com or below:
The crowd is in their hands
Folds' set satisfies, and Amos' is out of this world
By DAVID MENCONI, Staff Writer
RALEIGH -- Except that both play a mean piano, you probably could not pick two more dissimilar artists than Tori Amos and Ben Folds. And yet the duo's "Lottapianos" tour, which came to Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek on Saturday night with nary a guitar in sight, was immensely satisfying.
Folds used to call Chapel Hill home, so his set was a quasi-homecoming show. Looking very unrock-star-like in thick-rimmed glasses, black jeans, T-shirt and shaggy hair, he sauntered onstage and dove into a cover of George Michael's "Careless Whisper."
He played it more or less the way Liberace would have -- sincerely, with just a little mugging. "Here's the best part," he murmured right before pounding the piano and slipping into falsetto for,"We could've been so good together." It was a swell start to a crowd-pleasing hour.
Though he performed solo, Folds made an impressive amount of noise, simulating a backup band by standing and attacking his piano. People in the front rows chipped in with claps and backup vocals as Folds worked the crowd like the pro he is. He even stood atop the piano as he conducted the audience, turning everyone into a choir of backup vocalists.
Folds skipped his 1998 hit single, "Brick," but offered up 12 songs both well-known and obscure. Highlights included "Rockin' the Suburbs" with an intro about how it was inspired by the metal band Korn; "Army," with a ragtime piano break; and "Sunny 16," an anti-yuppie rant that will be the title track to his forthcoming mini-album.
Where Folds came off like a regular guy you might see playing at a bar, Amos seemed more like the lounge pianist in the restaurant at the end of the universe. As Mars glowed to the South and heat lightning flickered to the North, Amos appeared at the back of the stage holding her soon-to-be-3-year-old daughter and waving to the crowd. Then her daughter skipped off and Amos walked out, bowed theatrically and commenced to rock.
And I do mean rock. Aided by a skilled rhythm section, she was nothing short of captivating. Her records tend to be hit or miss, but she remains one of the most compelling live performers out there. The first song, "A Sorta Fairytale," hit with the force of a tidal wave. The trio vamped on it for close to 10 minutes, and had they kept playing that song all night, it would have been fine.
Exotic and alien, Amos is a true original with a vision that gets under your skin and transports you to a cold, faraway place. Saturday's curfew-busting, two-hour-plus set was like visiting "the other side of the galaxy" she sang about in the encore version of "Black-Dove (January)."
Amos didn't make things easy on herself. She sat on a piano bench with her Bosendorfer piano on one side and a stack of electric keyboards on the other. She went back and forth between them mid-song, occasionally playing both simultaneously while singing perfectly on pitch -- a staggering bit of virtuosity that she made look easy.
All Amos had to do to elicit adoring shrieks from the crowd was to aim a smile in our direction. But she was too caught up in her musical reverie to do much mugging. Her set featured a chunk of last year's "Scarlet's Walk" album, plus radically rearranged older songs. "God" bordered on jazz improvisation, and "Putting the Damage On" was almost unrecognizable.
Wholly recognizable was a lovely version of Don McLean's "Vincent," one of several 1970s-vintage covers Amos played. The song never had it so good.
Staff writer David Menconi can be reached at 829-4759 or firstname.lastname@example.org