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Houston Chronicle (US)
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Tori Amos says 'don't expect me to stop making music'

By Michael D. Clark

There is a certain hypnotic quality to the way Tori Amos speaks, similar to the dreamy falsetto and heavy breathing that punctuate the fire-haired chanteuse's piano-driven balladry.

Amos makes a discussion of something as basic as the evolution of her career sound like savory drama. Not that her tale -- that of a rebellious preacher's daughter and piano prodigy who became a musical beacon of female empowerment in the '90s -- needs much dressing up. These days, she's a 42-year-old wife and mother, but she's still active as a recording and touring artist.

"You want to continue to be the wild lioness even though you might not be hunting everyday," says Amos. "You can see the young cubs starting to grow up, but the Rolling Stones are still out on the Serengeti. So are U2." Amos will stop at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday in support of her eighth studio album, The Beekeeper. But don't expect Amos to buzz from that album alone.

Like veteran performers Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, Amos has trained her fans to expect a variety of songs from throughout her varied career.

Each concert produces a radically different set list, a phenomenon that can be further appreciated on a new series of authorized live "bootlegs" being sold at www.toriamosbootlegs.com The first two double-disc releases in the series -- from April performances in Chicago and Los Angeles -- can now be ordered. These sets find Amos in fine voice, singing passionately.

"There was a time when I couldn't envision that there would be another tour," she says. "Now I really appreciate it. With time you begin to value things. You don't know what tomorrow will bring and your idea of immortality changes. I guess each night I'm singing as if it's my last."

She also cites Madonna's recent horseback riding accident as a reminder that life can change in an instant. Likewise, Amos' songwriting style, always grounded in struggles of womanhood, has also matured since she released Little Earthquakes in 1992.

Earthquakes songs like Me and a Gun and Crucify still evoke pin-drop silence in the largest of theaters when Amos shares them with her audience.

But beginning with 1998's From the Choirgirl Hotel, Amos' albums began taking on bigger themes than those she sang about during her more confrontational youth. Scarlet's Walk, released in 2002, showed even more growth; the album dealt with Amos' emotional progression toward her '40s.

Released in conjunction with her autobiography Piece by Piece, new album The Beekeeper feels closer to the more personal musings of her earlier albums. But to hear Amos tell it, songs like fiery Hoochie Woman and Goodbye Pisces, a heartbreaking tale of love lost, are her most universal statements to date.

"I spent lots of time learning about archetypes and how people of different archetypes could make different choices," says Amos. "The muse wants to explore, and it can create this container of female archetypes from cradle to grave.

"I am the clay and have to be molded."


Beautifully, and curiously, worded, as always. But why the shift from personal vignettes to more universal themes?

"There's a time when narcissism is charming and then it becomes weathered and aged and you need to trim the fat a bit," says Amos. "There came a time when I decided to stop measuring the circumference from my naval to my (behind)."

TORI AMOS

With: the Ditty Bops and the Like
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby
Tickets: $42.50-$47.50
Call: 713-629-3700


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