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South Florida newspaper
September 2, 2003
Folds and Amos, an unlikely duo, hit right chords
By Joshua Klein
Tori Amos and Ben Folds are calling their joint summer venture the Lottapianos Tour, and for obvious reasons. Yes, it's a play on Lollapalooza, but it also heralds their unwieldy instrument of choice.
Pianos come and go on the pop landscape, like a fashionable accessory. But whether in sync with current trends or not, Folds and Amos tickling the ivories has always been a welcome respite from the typical bass-drums-guitar monotony of alternative rock.
Right now Folds and Amos are pretty far out of the pop spotlight. Amos is lobbying for additional exposure in dance clubs with a new remix by German producer-DJ Timo Maas of her song Don't Make Me Come to Vegas. Folds is taking a work-in-progress approach to his new album, due next year, with a series of downloadable EPs that he's posting on his Web as he finishes each batch of songs.
Lottapianos is a hipper take on Elton John and Billy Joel's frequent arena couplings, the big difference being that besides playing piano, Amos and Folds have virtually nothing in common.
She plays earnest, mystical, fantasy-filled art-rock. He plays loosely satirical crowd-pleasing ditties, part Randy Newman, part Victor Borge.
On the current tour, which arrives Thursday at Sound Advice Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Folds takes the opening slot. In concert the guy's a constant goof, pounding at his piano and flashing silly grins.
Watching Tori Amos perform, on the other hand, is like being sucked into someone else's world for a while, and the prospect can be fraught with peril.
As you're drifting on her gossamer voice and sparkling piano, relishing the texture, you may plummet all of a sudden. Her stories -- at times dark and deep -- are like open elevator shafts.
"It's like the sound of the Sirens leading Odysseus to his death," she says jokingly. "But I like to think that I'm leading people to honey after the bees have left."
Amos' most recent disc, Scarlet's Walk, an ambitious and panoramic take on the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, is at once surreal, profound, pretty, whimsical and more than a little bit solipsistic. A "sonic novel," the 18-track album follows Scarlet, a fictional character who represents "the voices of many people," as she travels the 50 states in search of America's soul after the 9-11 attacks. To give the heavy, literate observations a certain lightness, Amos, during the recording, studied the art of Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo.
"I was working with a Native American undertone with this project," says Amos, whose mother is part Cherokee, "and I wanted to capture a natural light from the sun and shadow. I wanted to achieve that sonically. I wanted to go after what comes from the organic, natural world. Once I knew the elements -- this woman getting to know the soul of America -- I had a research team to pull everything together to make it air-tight. It's probably the most time I've spent writing and researching a record."
Amos, who made a previous swing through South Florida in February, says the intertwined arts of songwriting, recording and performing constitute "a very humbling experience. I can't possess a song. The songs are like live entities for me. I have to put them out in the world, and it's none of my business what relationships the songs form. As an artist, I have to make peace with that."
Rashod D. Ollison of The Baltimore Sun contributed to this report.
Tori Amos, Ben Folds
Where: Sound Advice Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach
When: Sept. 4 at 7 p.m.
Info: Call Ticketmaster
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