A friend of mine on Facebook was contemplating going to see Tori Amos. His thread was lighthearted and slightly snarky. There was commentary about not wanting to relive 1990s angst and also disinterest in seeing Tori with just her piano…he’d been to enough open mics back in the day. I laughed out loud – love that kid.
My own motivations for seeing Tori were different. Although she released a few album that didn’t catch on with me — her new album UNREPENTANT GERALDINES struck a chord. The lyrics on her new album often spoke of my here and now. Years from now I’ll remember listening to GERALDINES in my new car as I drove through sunny Florida afternoons. Tori is 50 and she’s writing from the point of view of a 50 year old woman. And it spoke in a big way to a 39 year old Jeremy Gloff.
I’ve seen Tori live twice. The first time was during the SCARLET’S WALK tour. To this day that album still may be my favorite. The concert was a bore. I remember the strong smell of incense. I remember hearing for years from my friends how I just HAD to see Tori live. And when I finally did I felt let down. I felt much more connected with the studio versions of the song than the live versions.
I gave Tori another try live during her ABNORMALLY ATTRACTED TO SIN tour. That album wasn’t one of my favorites. I enjoyed this show better than the first. I was especially delighted that she played so many songs off THE BEEKEEPER (one of my favorites). What a treat to hear “Goodbye Pisces” live. But still, I didn’t feel that emotional tug that I feel at the greatest concerts. I’ve cried like a baby at Stevie Nicks, Madonna, and Cyndi Lauper. As emotional as Tori’s music can be (and as personally connected as I feel to some of her songs) I thought for sure I’d feel SOMETHING. I enjoyed the show. But I didn’t feel anything.
I was looking forward to the show tonight. The first two Tori concerts I attended solo. Which can be cool. I’ve had some great concert experiences by myself. I must admit I was glad to have company this time. Another factor that excited me was that this time it was just Tori and the piano. Both of the other tours I saw featured Tori and a band. The thought of just Tori alone with her instrument was promising and exciting.
The ride to the show with my friend Kim was awesome. I got my coffee at 7-11. We played our favorite Tori songs and sang along. We told each other some stories of what different Tori songs meant to our lives. The weather was perfect. The drive over the Courtney Campbell Causeway was breathtaking.
Arrive at the show we got our merchandise (a shirt for Kim, a tour book for me) and met up with a bunch of our other friends. It was awesome having a Tori crew. We all dispersed to our different sections but Kim (joined by our friend Jordan) and I went to our seats.
The show opened with “Parasol” from my beloved BEEKEEPER. From there the set veered into a bunch of songs I didn’t know or particularly like. I got bored and restless.
“Silent All These Years” grabbed my interest back. This was the first Tori Amos song I ever heard. I remember seeing the video on MTV. At the time I thought Wendy from Wilson Phillips had gone solo and I couldn’t believe how great her debut single was. Whoops.
Another early highlight was “Martha’s Foolish Ginger” — easily one of my favorites off THE BEEKEEPER. “Selkie” from the new album was gorgeous and welcome.
Then came the LIZARD LOUNGE segment of the show. This is where Tori does a couple cover versions. The first – a Zeppelin cover – was okay. But then…a drum beat started. Then the piano began. And then – no bullshit here – Tori went into an impassioned reading of Alanis Morissette’s “Thank U”. I began to cry. I was so moved. How funny that the first time I was truly moved at a Tori concert was when she did an Alanis song. But that Alanis song came out in the late 90s. The same time I moved to Florida. I remember hearing “Thank U” in a dentist office. It was also 1999 that I went from hating to loving Tori Amos. “Thank U” was intense as fuck. I know Tori and Alanis are friends. Tori handled that song like a friend would. So very powerful.
As “Thank U” ended Tori dove right into the intro of the next song. I recognized it immediately. “Bliss”. Fucking “Bliss”. The song that transitioned me from not being able to stand Tori Amos into sticking with her from that moment on. Hearing Tori pound out “Bliss” on the piano solo did something to my body. I cried. I felt adrenaline. I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe how fucking good this concert had just gotten. So THIS was the Tori Amos live that everyone had been telling me about. Holy FUCKING god.
The rest of the set maintained the momentum. Like any Tori concert (or album) there will be songs you like more than others. Her set list always changes. One concert may be brilliant and filled with your favorites. Another may be all the songs you dislike. Home runs for me were a hammond organ solo sexy reading of “Sweet The Sting”. Man, the studio version of that song was so sterile. Hearing Tori do it solo brought all the sass and fire. Amazing. “Cornflake Girl” was a natural winner.
Tori left the stage and we brought her back for an encore. Tonight was her 51st birthday so her crew surprised her with a birthday cake on stage. Balloons fell from the ceiling. The audience began to try to sing “Happy Birthday” but it was discombobulated. Tori helped us out and went to her piano. How fucking awesome it was so sing “Happy Birthday” to Tori Amos while she accompanied us on her piano.
The encores were absolute fire. I heard a drum beat start and I turned to my friend. NO FUCKING WAY. Yup. “Raspberry Swirl” complete with a drum beat. My blood was thrashing through my veins. “16 Shades Of Blue” — my favorite song from UNREPENTANT GERALDINES was gorgeous live. Within this song Tori references her age and the fight to stay relevant and vibrant. It was poignant and emotional. I cried again.
And then came the opening notes of the final song. “Pretty Good Year”. It brought my back to my friends in New York. 1994. I was in my friend Josh’s living room and we listened to that song many times. I cried like a baby. Those years and those people are so far away…but the music and the memories remain. And that’s what ruled about this concert. To me there was a mix of nostalgia and current themes/feelings. Tori took me back and moved me forward. She talked about my then and my now. This was no greatest hits show or oldies set. This was an audio photo album of my fucking life.
As I left the venue I felt weak and drained. It’s been years since I’ve been this emotionally moved at a show. Easily one of the best concerts of my life. Now I understand what people meant when they said I just HAD to experience Tori live.
I’d seen her live twice before. But tonight was the first time I truly experienced it. It’s been a pretty good year.