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Chicago Sun-Times (US)
Saturday, September 28, 1996

'Challenging' Tori Amos at Arie Crown tonight

by Rex Rutkoski

Tori Amos has but one request.

"The only thing I beg you is no exclamation points," she says, chuckling, as she sends her interviewer off to his keyboard to write. "That's the only thing I'm prejudiced over."

A harmless-enough favor to honor, yet perhaps a surprising wish for an artist whose career so far has been a decided exclamation, challenging the way pop music can be presented. This famous Amos even has a way of making low-key an adventure in listening and watching.

Now this former child piano prodigy is back on tour to promote "Boys for Pele," her third solo album since she appeared on the scene with her 1992 debut, "Little Earthquakes," and followed that with 1994's "Under The Pink." (She performs tonight at the Arie Crown Theatre.)

Proving quickly to be no shy artistic flower, Amos' first two albums saw her writing and singing with frankness, often graphically, about victims, emotional dependency, violence and her own rape, sexuality, religion and the quest for belief in oneself.

The subjects and her style resonated for many, winning her a base of fans that has been described as "almost obsessive" and sending her first two albums to platinum. Vogue magazine suggested that in using victimization as impetus for empowerment, "Amos has rescued women's pop from decades' worth of weepy, introspective types."

So, once again, Tori Amos finds herself her own toughest act to follow. After her relationship with companion and producer Eric Rosse ended, she chose to produce herself on "Boys for Pele," which takes its name from the Hawaiian goddess.

Amos, a North Carolina native, recorded primarily in an old church in Ireland. In addition to trademark piano, Amos plays harpsichord on several of the 18 tracks. The first single, "Caught a Lite Sneeze," has been embraced by alternative radio formats.

Musically and vocally on this album, Amos challenges the listener to pay attention, changing dynamics and styles in mid-song, singing lyrics that can be obscure and in general taking chances, even inviting, for some, repeated listens to acquire this particular taste. She saw the theme of "Under the Pink" as self-empowerment: This record is about striving for "wholeness." The songs, she says, were inspired by her relationships with men.

Playing it safe is not what she wants to do.

"When musicians challenge themselves, they therefore challenge their audience, and therefore the whole market gets challenged," she says. "When you do that, you have a lot of challenging music out there. Then the medium rises to another level."

Amos sees music as the only language that everybody seems to be able to relate to.

"That's very exciting. It transcends all limitations and barriers," she says. "When you are part of something like that, you are part of the most limitless expression that there is, if you let yourself be free in it."

Tori Amos 8 tonight
Arie Crown Theatre, McCormick Place, 23rd Street at Lake Shore Drive
Tickets, $25 (312) 559-1212


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