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Biloxi Sun Herald (US)
August 14, 2003
Ben-Tori tour has Lottapianos
by Rod Harmon;
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Tori Amos' piano has only been gone a couple of days, but she already misses it.
"Peace has left," she says with a heavy sigh from her home in Cornwall, England, as she packs for a tour with Ben Folds. "She went in a truck the other day in the rain. They took her legs off and put her in her case, and she went into the truck, to get on the plane, to go to New York, to get on a truck, to go to Seattle.
"I waved goodbye to her. It was a bit rough."
Most musicians will readily admit their favorite instruments are like old friends, but to Amos, it's even more than that. When she performs, she doesn't just play her pianos. She caresses them, makes love to them, pounds on them, takes out her frustrations on them. Her shows are such an experience in cathartic release, Rolling Stone readers recently voted her No. 5 in an online poll of top live acts.
Her approach is similar to that of Folds, formerly of the Ben Folds Five, which was really just three guys and now consists of one. After achieving pop success in the '90s with the top 20 single "Brick," Folds broke up the band and went solo - completely solo, without the benefit of a backing band.
"It was scary, but it was one of the things I thought I had to do," Folds said, while recording in Nashville. "I just couldn't deal with the machine, and it was a way of disconnecting."
Amos and Folds have joined forces on the "Lottapianos Tour," which will hit 28 U.S. cities before winding down in September. Unlike the annual Billy Joel and Elton John "Face to Face" tour, Amos and Folds won't be performing together. It's really just an Amos tour with Folds opening, a fact that Folds readily admits.
"I don't do many openers," he said. "I would rather take the risk and flop doing it myself than be on someone else's terms. But I think Tori is great, so when this came up, I was like, 'Wow, one of the artists I actually like. I'll do that."'
The idea behind "Lottapianos" was to provide a refuge from world affairs by using artists with similar approaches to music, Amos said.
"We made the decision to do this when the war (with Iraq) was at its height," she said. "We wanted to create a place where people could come away from the bombardment of that to hold a space for those people who needed a nonviolent space for a couple of hours.
"Let's face it, there is a lot of violence and hootchy out there you can pay to go see. I thought having a male and female representing an instrument was a balance, a good polarity. The Antarctic and the Arctic."
Amos has been on the road for more than a year in support of her seventh album, "Scarlet's Walk." Written as a response to Sept. 11 and the birth of her first child, it served as an exploration of her Native American heritage (Amos' grandfather was a Cherokee), and as a treatise on how humanity treats the Earth.
"After Sept. 11, if you had any questions about what had gone on, or was going on, you were shamed into being told you were betraying your country," she said. "I began to understand that we had to retrieve America herself out of the hands who had hijacked her, and that would be anybody who thinks they can speak for the land."
Still, there aren't any in-your-face political messages like "Power to the People." It's just not Amos' style. Like her previous work, it provides a peek into her life without revealing too much, weaving personal experience into creative license.
"I think the songs have their own birth certificates, and they come and visit me for a while," she said. "My duty really is to try and represent them, to make a container for them so that when they come to visit, you get a sense of who they are. Sometimes, that's quite different from who I am. But I feel like I am able to become more like clay, and they come and rework who I am while I'm singing their song."
Most people don't think of levity when they hear Amos and Folds' music. Some have joked that their pairing should have been called the "Depression Tour." While it's true they have a tendency to bare their souls in their work, there's also a subtle hint of dark humor. For example, on Amos' 2001 all-covers album, "Strange Little Girls," she donned costumes to illustrate the songs in the liner notes.
"I kinda felt like, because they were not my songs, I needed to have a relationship with them, and the women were the animus of the songs," Amos said. "My God, I haven't done pictures of my songs' animus yet, but that would be funny! (Pause.) I may do that tonight."
Folds' humor tends to be more overt. The title track of his latest CD, "Rockin' the Suburbs," pokes fun at rock-star angst. "Ya'll don't know what it's like, being male, middle-class and white," he sings. "I take the checks and face the facts, that some producer with computers fixes all my (crummy) tracks."
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