Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tori Amos at the Tower Theater

[Here's something momentous in the world of Picasso Blue. Our first guest article, courtesy of Michelle Kate Byrne. Full disclosure: I think she's really cute.]

At roughly 8:25 p.m. on Sat., Aug. 15, it was predicted that Tori Amos would take to the stage of the Tower Theater in 35 minutes just as she had two years before. This was much anticipated as opener One EskimO’s lackluster performance had matched the stagnant air of the theater perfectly. Think Seal + Bowerbirds + suck. Sample quote: “You float like a baby looking for safety.” +1 point for your genuine British politeness, though. I also want to give One EskimO another point for the Byron "Buster" Bluth lookalike grooving on their undistinguished jams, but I am pretty sure that guy danced the rest of the night too.

At 9:01 p.m., the theater transformed into a Tori dreamworld as Matt Chamberlain and Jon Evans subtly took to the stage, making me forgive and forget the opener. The evening, the set, and even the artist’s demeanor were different than the last Philadelphia performance. The show was not as "hippie spiritual" as the tours for Scarlet’s Walk and Beekeeper, not as rockin’ as American Doll Posse and Boys for Pele, not as heartbreaking but coy as Little Earthquakes, and not as dark as From The Choirgirl Hotel and Strange Little Girls. It was intricate, paced, and adult; but, still passionate. It was as dreamy as the To Venus and Back days, yet with a particular spice added from each song of a different era, making it a complex concoction.

As a Tori devotee for well over a decade, I know that there is a masterly method to this magnetizer’s madness (Wink.) Tori’s dreamworld was aided by her wardrobe (a primarily blue dress over gold leggings), the twinkling and swirling lighting effects, and the plethora of piano-based instruments on the stage; as well as several songs with the word “blue” somewhere within their lyrics, three songs with “Cloud[s]” in the title,” and nine songs with the letter “C” beginning a word in the title. (I know there is a reason for these things!) The song organization was in the same vein as this year’s Abnormally Attracted to Sin, cultivating the ethereality: "Black Dove (January)" into "Welcome to England!" "Northern Lad" into "Cars and Guitars!" What?!

When Tori took to the stage, I was surprised that her petite frame seemed even tinier than two years ago. But then, the nearly 46-year-old played for nearly two hours straight working her ass off the entire time. She spent the majority of the show doing sexy squats while straddling the piano bench playing keys on both sides of her; breaks were accompanied by a little vogue-like dance. The songs are almost too complex for a live show as it seemed she used three, maybe four, key-based instruments for “Starling.” Rarely straining, she is a master at pacing herself and keeping her sense of humor. Extra dreamy takes of “Hotel” and “Bouncing Off Clouds” with extended introductions added lightness to the newer and extremely involved songs, like “Starling” and “Welcome to England.” Two of my least favorite Tori songs - “Your Cloud” and “Carbon” - fit flawlessly into the celestial atmosphere Amos created, and made me think I just hadn’t “gotten them” before this date. “Northern Lad” brought this redhead to tears and left the lovely redhead two seats down from me sniffling as well. The classics were greatly appreciated by the audience, with “Crucify” bringing the audience to their feet with an air of great respect.

Tori closed with “Strong Black Vine” off of this year’s Abnormally Attracted to Sin, and she gave the performance of a lifetime. She bestowed upon us the most powerful and raw version audiences may ever hear with some extended “motherfucker” verses. Watching her work throughout the evening was exhausting, and after the performance of that song, I knew there was nothing greater on earth for my ears to hear. She gave us a tired encore of “Caught A Lite Sneeze” and “Big Wheel,” though she did perk up for the “MILF” chanting. The lights went on immediately after the first encore, which (in my experience) is a rarity. However, I was, as usual, more satisfied than I could have ever imagined and amazed at the stamina Tori possessed. I hope she got to spend the rest of her evening with her mother and father, who were also in attendance.

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