Last Friday, I saw my 25th Tori Amos showÁ‚ since 1996. Yes, I said 25th show. That may sound excessive, but believe me, that’s peanuts compared to the number of shows some of my friends and fellow Tori fans have seen.
I saw my first Tori show in August of 1996 in Dayton, Ohio during her extensive “Dew Drop Inn Tour” in support of the incredible Boys for Pele album. This was before I had any kind of regular Internet access, so the only way I knew about the show was hearing on the radio that tickets were on sale. I took a friend who wasn’t a big Tori fan and who spent a good chunk of the show out in the hall or in the bathroom, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the show immensely. I was awestruck by her performance and immediately decided that the next time she toured, I was going to see as many shows as possible
During the “Plugged ’98 Tour,” which supported her fourth album, From the Choirgirl Hotel, I saw four amazing shows. The show I saw in Dayton proved to be another significant one for me, as I met Tori for the first time at the before-show meet and greet (these meet and greets have been a staple on “Tori Tour” for many, many years). After that, she could’ve gotten on stage and played the theme song from Green Acres twenty times in a row and I would’ve still been over the moon. I had so much fun that day, spending most of it camped out in front of the venue waiting for Tori to arrive, meeting and hanging out with some fantastic people. In fact, meet and greets became an integral part of my tour experience over the years. And even though I haven’t done one since 2003, I am glad that they gave me the opportunity to meet some of my dearest friends, who I still talk to regularly and see at shows I attend.
During subsequent tours, I’ve seen anywhere from three to ten shows, exceptions being the two tours of which I only saw one show — the 2001 “Strange Little Tour” (I was in the middle of moving and starting a new job at the time) and the 2007 “American Doll Posse Tour.” Besides seeing almost every Ohio show, I’ve also seen shows in a variety of other cities, with Los Angeles being the farthest city I’ve traveled to for a show. For awhile, “Tori Tour” was something I anticipated with glee every couple of years — the excitement of possibly hearing songs that I hadn’t heard live yet; the hope that she would finally play the song I had requested at practically every show I attended; the joy of seeing old friends and meeting new people; the fun of taking a road trip or two. Some people like to go to the beach on their vacations, but I liked going from city to city seeing Tori Amos shows.
As I’ve gotten older and my priorities have changed — and my fascination with Tori and her music has waned — so have my tour habits. I only saw one show during her last tour and this is the only show I’ll see during the current “Sinful Attraction Tour.” And you know, even though my chances of getting a set full of my least favorite songs increases greatly the fewer shows I see, I’m okay with only seeing her once per tour now. And I know my bank account is okay with that, too.
When the schedule for this tour was first announced, I decided that the Indianapolis show would be my only show. But I completely forgot when tickets went on sale and by the time I realized they were, there weren’t any good seats left. So I decided not to go at all, making this the first tour since ’96 that I wouldn’t see a show. Then the tour started and I started seeing the set lists, reading reviews and seeing YouTube videos and decided to try again to look for a ticket. A friend and I managed to find excellent fifth row center seats through ticktetsforcharity.com for only a few dollars more than tickets were being sold through LiveNation, so I changed my mind and decided to go (my secondary motivation was the threat of my friend, Mel, driving to Cincinnati from Dayton to beat me up if I didn’t go).
My friends Josh, Shawn and I arrived at the venue about an hour before the show and we hung out in the lobby chatting with old friends until it was time for Tori to take the stage. Her long time bass player, Jon Evans, and drummer, Matt Chamberlain, took the stage first and started playing the standard set-opening song, “Give,” which is also the first track from her new album. A minute later, Tori came strutting out in what we decided looked like a Project Runway losing design (as Tim Gunn would say, it was a “whole lotta look”).Á‚ After grooving at the edge of the stage for a minute, she hopped up to her piano and keyboards and launched into the song. I really enjoyed it and thought it translated really well live — a perfect set opener.
The next song, “Beauty of Speed” from American Doll Posse, is one I find to be fairly forgettable and my immediate reaction when she started playing it was, “I have a feeling I’m going to be disappointed tonight.” Why would I say that after only the second song? Well, for me, it tends to turn out that if she starts the set with a song I don’t like, then that usually means more of my least-favorites are still to come. Next came “Cornflake Girl,” one of her most beloved hits from 1994’s Under the Pink. But before she started playing it, she told a story about how she and her husband, Mark, had their first date 15 years ago in Indianapolis, then she introduced the band.
The fourth song in the set was “Starling,” which is from the new album. This is one of those songs that I loved when I first heard it on the album, but after repeated listens, decided I wasn’t a fan. I did, however, like the live arrangement and thought her voice sounded really strong.Á‚ “Crucify” was next, which included the added line of “fuck fuck fuck fuck” when she messed up one of the verses.
After that came what I refer to as the “trifecta of blech” — three of my least favorite songs, right in a row: “Ireland,” “Welcome to England” and “Jamaica Inn.” Now, I probably should give her a pass for doing three British-themed songs in honor of the anniversary of her first date with her British husband; but I just do not like these songs. At least “Ireland” is enough of a live rarity to make it kind of fun, though the lyrics make me want to gag. I thought “Welcome to England” was better live than on the album. And “Jamaica Inn” — well, I just hate this song and had I not been trapped in the middle of my row, I would’ve taken a potty break.
After those three songs, I had pretty much decided I was going to get completely gipped out of an amazing set list. But then she started “Hotel,” which, while not my favorite song off of From the Choirgirl Hotel, was welcome after the last three songs. Under the Pink‘s “Bells for Her” was next — a song I was kind of hoping to avoid, since I’ve seen it at more than half the shows I’ve been to. However, it was really beautiful that night and I’ll take a really well-done song I’m sick of over a song I genuinely do not like any day.
Next came the “Lizard Lounge” portion of the set, in which Tori played a few songs solo. First was “Peeping Tommi,” played completely on keyboard, not piano. This song, which was originally recorded in 1993, but not released until 2006 as part of the A Piano retrospective boxed set, is rarely played live and I almost didn’t recognize it at first, so it was a nice surprise. The next song was “Cooling,” a b-side from Choirgirl which she loves to play in concert. I was quite happy to hear this because all the other times I’d heard it live, she had always left out one of my favorite verses; this time she played the entire song.
Up until this point, this show had been a completely different experience for me than any other show I’d been to. For the first time, I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the music or the experience — I was mostly enjoying the show, but I hadn’t had a real connection to what I was seeing or hearing. That is until she started the next song. Typically, she has only performed two songs solo during “Lizard Lounge.” But tonight, she declared that because of the anniversary she was celebrating, she was going to do three songs. Then she started playing “Gold Dust,” which is not only one of my favorite songs from 2002’s Scarlet’s Walk, but also a special song for my friend, Mel, who had spoken to Tori earlier in the day at the meet and greet and had asked her to play it. As soon as the first notes started, I looked two rows ahead to see Mel’s reaction, and then whispered to my friends sitting on either side of me that “Mel is losing her shit right now.” The performance was emotional and beautiful and reminded me why I fell in love with Tori’s music and why I’d gone to so many shows over the years.
The next three songs were quite strong — Boys for Pele‘s “Horses,” which I really do love hearing played with the band; “Tear in Your Hand” from Little Earthquakes; and the new song, “Fast Horse,” which I don’t like on the album but really loved live. She closed out the main set with the Little Earthquakes fan favorite, “Precious Things,” and one of my favorite songs from the new album, the Zeppelin-esque “Strong Black Vine.”
The encore consisted of Choirgirl‘s danciest track, “Raspberry Swirl,” which, while fun to hear, was definitely not as strong as it could’ve been. The arrangement seemed a little watered down and she didn’t seem to be as into it as other times I’ve seen her perform it. She followed that up with what I think is one of the most embarrassing songs she’s ever recorded, “Big Wheel.” Oh, how I wish that wasn’t the last song I heard during my only show of the tour.
While I would’ve liked for the set list to have included more songs that I love, the show was not bad by any means. After a month of touring, she and the band have gotten tighter and her voice was strong and clear and she really seemed to be enjoying herself. It was good to see her play again and even better to see some of my old friends. Do I wish I’d chosen to see more shows? Not really (though I did have some pangs of jealousy after seeing the set list from the next night’s show in Detroit). Will I ever stop going to shows altogether? I doubt it because even if she puts out a mediocre album, Tori is still one of the most dynamic, entertaining live performers I’ve ever seen and and I don’t see that changing.