Saw Tori Amos at the Opera House last night, as part of her American Doll Posse tour. I have wanted to see her perform live for years, and although I haven’t kept up with her last couple of albums, I still love the earlier ones and jumped at the chance when Brett and Em said they would get me a ticket for my birthday. It was an amazing concert, and she is one of the most fascinating performers I’ve ever seen, but the whole thing I found quite exhausting.
When I was absorbed and ‘into’ it, it was perfect, but there were times when I stepped back from it and found the whole thing quite absurd. The music was incredible – I still think she is an incredibly talented and accomplished musician, especially when she plays two pianos at the same time without looking at either, and she had a kick-arse band with her. But I found the disconnect would happen especially during songs I wasn’t familiar with, and I realised it’s because of her unique diction and tone when she sings; if it’s not a studio album, the words are rendered virtually incomprehensible and unless you’re a hard core fan, you won’t get it. She’s also still all about sexualising everything and being anti-God and that can be a bit…well, boring after a while.
She also didn’t engage with the audience much – the only time she actually talked to us was at one point when she turned and talked to us to introduce the band, and everyone was just lapping it up. Maybe that’s the thing; she just gives out a tiny little bit which keeps everyone screaming for more. But part of me felt that the audience didn’t even need to be there; compared to musicians like Ani diFranco and Ben Folds who really feed on and play off the audience vibe, it was almost like Tori was a self-sufficient, self-contained unit that was occasionally surprised and amused to look up and see the Concert Hall full to the brim.
Anyway. It was a brilliant concert and a great (late) birthday present from Brett and Em. Here are the notes from my journal I scrawled in the bus on the way home:
She’s totally nuts. I know it’s partly the whole ‘persona’ thing, but really she’s pretty insane. And everyone loves it. Screaming girls and gay men and dramatic postmoderns all being so unique and alternative, yet fulfilling a certain laughable stereotype. A sea of bright pink and red heads. Ironic nerd glasses and taffeta puffed sleeves.
And yet, when she comes out, we all clap and shriek. She’s clad in yellow draped satin, rubber leggings and a black wig [this is the ‘Pip’ persona, pictured left]. She’s serious and vicious and sexual. She has the most amazing voice.
After a set, she disappears for a costume change and comes back as ‘herself’, in a green spangled jumpsuit that makes her look like a lithe lizard. And her hair’s back to her trademark red – though it’s still a wig, still a persona.
She’s playful and mocking and funny. She growls and purrs and croons and wails and it’s beautiful.
But after a while the hyperbole is exhausting, so it’s a relief when she slides in the ‘T & Bo’ set; Tori and her Bosendorfer, the piano that’s like an extension of herself. She plays it and the synth without even looking, stretched between the two, as though she’s not even controlling herself.
The crowd cheers for the old faves – and so do I – but I’m glad when it’s time to go home.
[top photo is a dodgy one of the staging I took with my phone, the other two are from her official site, which also has more info about the whole ‘American Doll Posse’ tour and who her various personas are, if you’re interested]