Better Than: ALL THE ’90s NOSTALGIA YOU CAN MUSTER.
Every time Tori Amos returns to music, it feels as if she’s been gone forever. The reality is she only breaks between album cycles for two, maybe three years. The time leading to her latest album has been one marked by a departure from the mainstream and into classical music (Night of Hunters), and one full of re-workings of songs spanning her then 20-year career (Gold Dust). Amos’ 14th studio album, Unrepentant Geraldines, set to be released on May 13th, may be a return after her longest musical displacement yet. Judging by the sound of her newest songs, the alt-rock goddess has done nothing but find ways to fuel her musical fire.
See also: Y Tori Can Groove
At Rough Trade, an intimate crowd of Amos devotees were in the audience clad with wristbands to get albums signed after the show. It’s a refreshing experience, in most cases, to be surrounded by a small set of an artist’s most fervent fans. The excitement is more tangible, more real. They screamed like a stadium at a pop concert, clapping heartily and excitedly at the recognition of the opening lines of each new song and showed no difference in appreciation between the new and the old. Their energy photosynthesized the singer at her piano as she progressed throughout her sadly short set.
Watching Tori Amos live is, I imagine, similar to what witnessing Joni Mitchell in concert would feel like. Clad in dueling shades of green that were offset by her burst of signature red hair and cat-eye glasses, the artist played the role of playful raconteur from the moment she sat at her piano, gesticulating wildly when the story needed her to and letting her vocal range drive the emotional undertones of her songs. It takes seeing her in concert to truly appreciate the tricks her words, voice, and piano can play in unison.
Over the half-hour she was on stage, Amos gave a sampling of her best mythologies, beginning with “Parasol,” the moving opener from her 2005 album The Beekeeper. Her voice quaked and quivered on “Strange” from 2002’s concept album about a post-9/11 America titled Scarlet’s Walk. “Trouble’s Lament” and “Selkie,” the only songs off of the brand new Unrepentant Geraldines she played, fit right into the sonic balance of the story-filled set. The former harkened back to some Southern folk roots while the latter referenced her influence from more mystical folklore. In this case, Amos sings of the Selkies of the Irish/Scottish tradition while in the process of telling a tragic and beautiful love story in her very vivid way.
She closed out her set with some of her most powerful musical statements, beginning with “Ribbons Undone,” another tune from The Beekeper. Like “Selkie,” “Ribbons Undone” is just another brilliant example of the types of unique love stories Amos can detail and expressively deliver, and this time she sings very passionately about the relationship between a mother and a daughter, making for one of the more moving deliveries of the evening. Her set was capped off with her only departure into the ’90s in the form of the Under the Pink (1994) B-Side “Take to the Sky,” which incorporated part of her massively complex “Datura” from 1999’s To Venus and Back. She pounded the body of her piano to enhance the percussive element and sang “Is there room in your heart/ For you to follow your heart/ And not need more blood/ From the tip of your star” with all the angst and passion she seemingly had left, proving she may be a mythological musical creature of her very own.
Critical Bias: My mom used to play “Silent All These Years” on repeat around the house, which led to me making her listen to it on a loop in her car just prior to getting my first iPod, where I would still listen to the song on repeat.
Random Notebook Dump: 2014 Amos reminds me a little bit of the mom from Bob’s Burgers in the best way. She’d sometimes sing out her banter (like the lines about hiding an extra pair of glasses in her piano: “Because I need to see in my menopausal state”) and even has similar specs to Linda Belcher.
Take to the Sky / Datura
Tori Amos returns to NYC for a pair of dates at the Beacon Theatre on August 12 & August 13. 8:00 p.m. daily, $42.50-$77.50.