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Read a review of Tori's August 31, 2005 concert in Chicago from the Chicago Sun-Times
September 2, 2005

Updated Fri, Sep 02, 2005 - 8:42am ET

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Read a review of Tori's August 31, 2005 concert in Chicago, IL from the September 2, 2005 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Amos creates musical magic as Pritzker's first rock act


Summer in downtown Chicago means listening to the Grant Park Orchestra emanating from Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion. On Wednesday night, though, Frank Gehry's steel marvel housed a new sound: piano maven Tori Amos. Amos, the venue's inaugural rock 'n' roll artist, was no less commanding than a full orchestra, even though she accompanied herself only on grand piano and three vintage organs for her captivating 130-minute performance. Trained as a classical pianist from an early age, Amos was an inspired choice for Pritzker's pop debut, easing the venue into the rock 'n' roll world with an attentive, polite crowd and her sophisticated technique. And with its crisp acoustics and awesome city views, promoters can be sure the venue made an auspicious debut.

Amos, in superb form -- her piercing soprano has never sounded sharper and her playing never richer, thanks to her onstage marriage of organ and piano -- eschewed chitchat to perform a brooding set drawing on stormy songs invoking mythology and questioning intersections between religion and sexual politics from her penetrating perspective. She began with "Original Sinsuality," examining Eve's role in the Garden of Eden story, ornamenting it with a rolling introduction. Later she moved to her Fender Rhodes organ for a gauzy take on the subversive "God," which she spiced with lines from "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush, undoubtedly Amos' ethereal musical sister. Amos stretched out the melody, allowing the tremulous notes -- the organ's affecting reverb -- to buffer her query. She crooned, "God sometimes you just don't come through/Do you need a woman to look after you?," and her interpolations from Bush's song, also decelerated and chanted with hypnotic fervor, only augmented that power.

Amos channeled the biblical theme on a cartoonlike backdrop depicting a coiled snake and the Tree of Knowledge -- which was, frankly, distracting and unnecessary. In her mint green and white, flowing chiffon dress, she resembled an enchanted Edenic figure. Seemingly soft and ultra-feminine, Amos rocked just as hard, and with just as much sexual prowess, as rock idol and inspiration Robert Plant.

Watch her sidle up to her grand piano, straddling the bench with commanding zeal. On songs like "Sleeps With Butterflies," Amos crouched over the piano, plucking airy, fluttering notes from its high register. Here she was, flirting with and massaging the instrument. But on "Sugar" she pounded the piano, engaging with it and drawing deep, resonant bass notes that felt menacing indeed. It was an intoxicating, complicated relationship in which each song's mood was mirrored by Amos' fine playing.

If things felt a bit too morose, a segment called Tori's Piano Bar offered a bit of levity as Amos performed fan-requested covers. Before "The Blower's Daughter," by Damien Rice, she joked, "I've never done this before, so if it's terrible, well, you'll still like me," and then delivered a simmering rendition. Her next choice, unfortunately, was Bette Midler's "The Rose," which, no matter how pitch-perfect, felt as sappy as the original.

Amos easily redeemed herself with her own material and, later in the set, she converted "Carbon" into an illicit, cautionary tale, designing a riveting tension between glittering high notes and the anchoring bass line. And "The Beekeeper," the title track from her latest album, bellowed its funereal hum from deep within the organ Amos played.

Immediately following the song, dozens of fans rushed the stage, gathering at Amos' feet. It's probably not something the Pritzker has experienced before, but given Wednesday's success, venue officials should brace themselves for such rock 'n' roll theatrics in the future.

Brian Orloff is a Chicago free-lance writer.

Posted by: Mikewhy

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