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New York Times
November 19, 2002

Added November 22, 2002

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A review of Tori's November 13, 2002 show at the Riverside Church in New York City appeared in the November 19, 2002 edition of the New York Times. Thanks to Woj and for making me aware of this.

Tori Amos Gathers the Faithful to Church


Tori Amos stopped to acknowledge the audience at Riverside Church on Wednesday night. "To be in church together," she said. "Wow." The locale may have been unusual, but it made sense: Ms. Amos's songs are full of religious language and hymnlike melodies (her father was a Methodist pastor), and she has a devout following that any minister would envy.

Ms. Amos began her concert with an a cappella introit: "In our hand an old, old, old thread/Trail of blood and amens/Greed is the gift for the sons of sons/Hear this prayer of the wampum." Then, a few songs later, she growled her version of a pastor's welcome: "Have a seat while I take to the sky."

Ms. Amos's band consisted of nothing but rhythm instruments: she accompanied herself on piano (and sometimes keyboard), and she was joined by a drummer and a bassist. And yet her music isn't driven by anything so predictable as a beat. The tempo varies from one line to the next; each phrase is a new gust of wind, pushing the song forward while changing its momentum. One of her best songs, "Cornflake Girl," starts with a muscular groove then floats up and away on a falsetto refrain. "Peel out the watchword," she sang, and the song drifted back down to earth.

A few weeks ago Ms. Amos released "Scarlet's Walk" (Epic), an impressive collection of songs about love and loss and travel. Songs from "Scarlet's Walk" accounted for nearly half the set, and many of them sounded just as good as Ms. Amos's old material. (The concert also included an excellent version of "Cool on Your Island," by Ms. Amos's 1980's band, Y Kant Tori Read.)

Part of the reason "Scarlet's Walk" succeeds is that Ms. Amos manages to take lyrical and musical digressions while keeping her songs light, even playful. Near the end of one new song, "Wednesday," she placed her right hand on the piano keyboard and tapped on it a few times with her left hand to create a brief, amusing interlude.

Ms. Amos's fans are ardent enough to dye their hair to match hers. But even these redheaded stepchildren seemed weary by the end of the 19-song set. Still, they brought their hero back for two encores, and they were still clapping when she skipped offstage for the last time.

As the houselights came on, the churchgoers filed out, looking content and maybe a bit tired. But a few still managed to shake hands with the pastor before they left: Ms. Amos's parents were sitting in the pews.

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