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November 25, 2002

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Chuck sent me the following review of Tori's November 22, 2002 concert in Toronto, Ontario from the November 25, 2002 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Drawing you into a telepathic groove

Special to The Globe and Mail

Monday, November 25, 2002 - Print Edition, Page R6

Tori Amos
Air Canada Centre
in Toronto on Friday

It's not about the words.

Never mind that a large portion of Tori Amos's audience would swear on a stack of CDs that what most moves them is her way with words -- the dreamlike metaphors, the playful similes, the vivid evocation of naked emotion that animate her songs.

However much such elements play into the cult of Amos, once she takes the stage, the lyrics take a back seat and the music steps to the fore.

And so there she was at Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Friday, pounding out a jagged ostinato on her beloved Bosendorfer grand piano while she stretched the lines of Precious Things like taffy. Anyone who knew the song was more than familiar with its litany of petty cruelties and emotional resilience, but somehow that all seemed secondary to the way her elasticized phrasing mutated the melody. In the end, her performance transcended the lyrics' specifics, reducing the song to the gut-level impact of vocal tone, rhythmic inflection and emotional urgency.

It helps that Amos -- a classically trained pianist who early in her career learned to apply her conservatory technique to contemporary material -- has chops to spare, and isn't afraid to use them.

Nor does it hurt that her band -- drummer Matt Chamberlain and bassist Jon Evans -- matches her virtuosity with an intensity that, at its best, recalls the quicksilver brilliance of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham and John Paul Jones.

But what made this concert crackle wasn't the trio's instrumental abilities, but its almost telepathic articulation of the groove. From the familiar, funky cadences of Cornflake Girl to the swampy, semi-psychedelic feel of the title tune from the new Scarlet's Walk album, Amos, Evans and Chamberlain played as though joined at the hip, with each player complementing and completing the ideas of the others.

Amos and Chamberlain were particularly tight, at times playing with such complementary precision that it was as if their four arms were controlled by a single being.

It hardly mattered whether they were reworking older songs such as Past the Mission and Cornflake Girl, or introducing such new numbers as I Can't See New York or Sweet Sangria -- the rhythmic energy pushed the performances to a level well beyond that of the recorded versions.

That's not to say Amos got by entirely through the help of her friends. Midway through the set, Evans and Chamberlain wandered off, leaving Amos to the sort of performance she offered through the first five years of her solo career.

Even though that left more space for her voice to fill, Amos refused to let the instrumental end slide, relying on her muscular, two-fisted technique to push Cloud on My Tongue and Marianne to unexpected heights.

Sadly, not every selection in her 24-song set packed as much punch. Strange, though beautifully played, seemed anti-climactic after the intensity of Precious Things, and Spring Haze managed to drift off a bit despite the loping, funky pulse Evans and Chamberlain provided.

But when Amos was good, she was very, very good, and the concert's highlights -- a dreamily urgent Horses and an elongated, ecstatic take on Crucify -- were so vivid that even if you didn't understand a word of what she sang, it would have been hard to miss her point.

Tori Amos performs at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver on Dec. 9.

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