Reviewed by Claudio Vernight, Music Critic
Her Ocean to Oc
ean tour started in mid-June on the Atlantic in West Palm Beach, finally reaching the Pacific and our Greek Theater July 21. And in case there was any doubt, Tori Amos arrived at the middle of the Greek stage a few minutes after 9:00 PM with her A game. With what would become a pattern for the night, her excellent rhythm section of Jon Evans, bass, and Ash Soan, drums and percussion, would lay down a groove for her. When it felt right, she joined in with all ten fingers on her big black grand piano, pounding out syncopated chords that would lay the foundation for the song.
The night started with her agnostic revelings of "God." Often the intro jam would fool the audience until they heard the first line of lyrics. Then, they would burst out in applause. This crowd came to adore. Demographically, many more women than men but it is clear she has assumed the mantle of Gay Diva, once held by Bette, Liza, Barbara and Cher. And while her words speak to us all, I can relate to the trouble she has with finding God in this world. Like in "Crucify" which had the audience singing with her,
I've been looking for a savior in these dirty streets
looking for a savior beneath these dirty sheets
I've been raising up my hands
drive another nail in
got enough GUILT to start my own religion
by Tori Amos, © Sword And Stone Publishing
"Cornflake Girl" which closed the main set has that appeal that attracts the "raisins" of the crowd and not the "cornflakes." While she has attested it was inspired by her shock at FGM, it is mainly about betrayal and who can we ever trust? The emotion she squeezed from her soul on this one was haunting.
"A Sorta Fairytale" is just the song to give an LA crowd the jolt it needs. With a syncopated and percussive vocal, having just the right slap echo, this fun and breezy song was ours, talking about Ventura and the 101.
But you need to see her interplay with Jon Evans, an admitted Jaco Pastorius admirer, and Ash Soan, the second coming of Jeff Porcaro meets Steve Gadd. Their jazzy, Phishy jamming is all theirs. The trio has the market cornered.
And just when you'd think she was kidding about singing a ditty about "It's request time, and in the old days I'd have a snifter on the piano bar," she played two that you'd never expect. Disquieting words for when she played her way into Nirvana's "Seems Like Teen Spirit," power-chording her big black piano like Kurt Cobain. Cue the audience to sing. "
I feel stupid, and contagious. Here we are now, entertain us."
Follow that with, oh my God, Jon Evans on bowed double bass with her evocative and quite sensual "I'm On Fire." Springsteen never sounded so good.
A few words about her set-up. Tori plays much like I remember Ferrante and Teicher or even Liberace, with two adjacent keyboards. It's her marquis move. There's something very arousing when she straddles the piano bench, both legs splayed to foot the sustain pedals on either side of her, as she faces you. Yes, she was facing me, singing to me with that blue chiffon flowing around her. Don't tell me she doesn't know it.
And that piano that she caresses and makes love to all night is one of the largest in the world. The Bösendorfer Imperial 290 is 9'6" long and sports 97 keys (9 more than the usual 88.) Many who play this eight-octave piano, never touch the nine lowest keys (going down from a1 to c0) because the richness that the longer and deeper soundboard adds is all the magic they need. To her right were her electronic keys, a Yamaha Montage 8 (with a heavenly Rhodes patch) and a Viscount Digital Tonewheel Organ.
Playing to a near sell-out (approx. 5200 out of 5900) she would do well not to wait a decade in between visits. Although I can see why, starting with the Beatles, artists prefer to stay home and record. And home for Tori is the operative word. Her (home) Martian Studios is state-of-the-art recording just "a stone's throw from the surfing beaches of UK's North Cornwall." And when your husband is the recording engineer, well, the red light can almost always be on. Hopefully she will consider another tour soon.