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weekly supplement to the Herald Tribune, Southwest Florida newspaper
April 1, 2005
Sting like a butterfly
Tori Amos kicks off 'Beekeeper' tour.
by Kevin O'Horan
Few would argue that Tori Amos has a way with words, an uncanny knack for telling a story concisely, passionately and creatively.
Whether tales inspired by her childhood in a Methodist household, yarns drawing upon her Native American heritage or scenes lifted from any moment in her 41 years of life, Amos' lyrics have helped fuel album sales by the millions.
But they've also brought out another side of Amos as she launches into a tour supporting her latest CD, "The Beekeeper."
"My musicians come up to me and say, 'I'm so sick of people talking about the lyrics,'" Amos said during a recent telephone interview.
"I thought that that's a fair point; that there is, of course, music that's involved in music. But a lot of times people don't talk about music because, let's face it, unless you're a musician, you don't talk about music."
Amos would like to set tongues awaggin' with her latest effort, which she will bring to the stage tonight at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. The show, which was almost sold out as of press time, kicks off her lengthy "Original Sinsuality" tour, which will send Amos to 15 U.S cities as well as Dublin, Paris, Berlin, Istanbul and elsewhere abroad.
Don't misunderstand. Amos long has had a musical bent, one that preceded even the words rolling off her tongue.
"I played music before I could talk, my mother says," Amos said. "I've been playing for a long time, since I was 2 1/2. This time next year, it will be 40 years. I was playing the piano."
It's just that somewhere along the way, the sultry redhead with the smooth pipes became known more for rhymes than rhythms.
That's not surprising, really, considering some of what she was saying. In "Silent All These Years," a hit off Amos' 1992 debut album "Little Earthquakes," she wrote of the tangle of lust, love and consequence:
"So you found a girl/ Who thinks really deep thoughts/ What's so amazing about really deep thoughts?/ Boy, you best pray that I bleed real soon/ How's that thought for you?"
With "The Beekeeper," Amos offers her take on the shape of spirituality today. But she wants fans and critics alike to know that this disc, like all those before it, is more than an anthology of thoughts.
"Songwriting is not just poetry," Amos said. "I mean, that's why there's music."
And, she insists, she knows music. Lives it. Breathes it. Speaks it. And has for as far back as she can remember.
"It was a language that made sense to me," Amos said.
Much as a sculptor can view a slab of marble and see the art form within or a mathematician can see ordered equations in a sea of numbers, Amos finds sense in the beats, bars and chords of music.
More specifically, in making order of the beats, bars and chords. She did it primarily with piano on "Little Earthquakes," "Under the Pink" and other early releases, and now does it with a wider instrumental backing.
She still "finds" that musical backbone among the elements, but now turns increasingly to the musicians who play beside her to flesh it out.
"Songs have an innate structure to them," she said. "It seems to make sense, when the guys write them out as musicians, that they can see patterns that I'm not developing at inception.
"I'll think it out, and the guys make it happen. They'll come back to me and say, 'Hey, did you know you put a nine-bar in that spot and then came back to it later?'"
Relying more on the musicians beside her has also affected Amos' creative side.
"Musically, I guess since I started playing with a rhythm section -- drum and bass -- I've wanted to create rhythms that would excite them as players," she said. "That has been something that's changed since just playing alone at the piano."
The result: "The Beekeeper." Typical Tori, lyrically. But musically, a unique Amos.
And, still, a proud Amos.
"I think it's doing great," she said of an album that debuted in February at No. 5 on the Billboard album chart.
"Do I put it out as a creative release? Yes, you have to. But I do everything I can to make it as good as I can. I think everyone would come in at No. 5 if they could."
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