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The News-Press (US)
Fort Myers, Florida, newspaper
November 16, 2007

A new Tori every night

Amos plays muse to herself with personae based on Greek goddesses

By Charles Runnells
crunnells@news-press.com

Who knows which Tori Amos audiences will see Saturday?

Maybe they'll get the sensual "Santa" with her martinis and low-cut dresses.

Or maybe it'll be the emotionally shattered, walking train-wreck called "Clyde."

And if they're really lucky, maybe they'll see the shaggy-haired "Pip," who's always looking for a fight in her thigh-high leather boots.

The Fort Myers audience won't know for sure until the singer strolls on stage -- in character and full costume.

Not even Amos knows who she'll be. Not yet.

"Tonight I'm in Buffalo, and I'm not sure who's going to show up here," Tori said recently in a phone interview. "I don't know yet.

"But every night, one of these women shows up. And then Tori follows."

This multiple-personality stuff started with Amos' new album, the critically acclaimed "American Doll Posse." The eccentric Amos recorded most of "Posse" while acting out four different personae, each based on a different Greek goddess and representing a part of her own personality.

So it just made sense to carry those women with her on tour.

Of course, not all audience members get the idea. Many, in fact, don't even realize it's really Tori. They think it's some unknown, very weird opening act.

On her recent Australian tour, some fans told Amos how their friend had seen the show the night before.

"They said, 'You know, we don't know what to expect, because our friend said there was this strange woman that came on first, and it was really scary,'" Amos said. "'And then Tori came out and it was all fine.'"

That "strange woman," it turned out, was the angry warrior-woman Pip.

"They hadn't put it together," Amos said and laughed mischievously. "They didn't realize."

Some audience members might see those kooky characters as Tori being Tori: endlessly creative, overdramatic and more than a bit odd.

But it's more than that, Amos said. It's a political statement.

And a warning to clueless men everywhere.

"The whole point of this is to show that most women are not just the woman that goes to work and the woman that comes home," Amos said. "And that's why all husbands should beware."

Amos' experiment is the latest in an risk-taking career that's taken her from piano confessionals to techno tunes to the full-rock sounds on "American Doll Posse."

It's been a long and rewarding journey, but even Amos seems surprised that it's been 15 years since her groundbreaking first album, "Little Earthquakes."

"That's crazy, huh?" she said. "It doesn't feel like that. It could have been last year."

The songs don't seem old to Amos. She still performs many of them every night -- either with her band or sitting alone and barefoot at her piano.

"I don't see it as another part of my life," she said. "If you asked me about some of the people I was hanging out with at the time (of the first album), that is a very different part of my life. I don't speak to some of those people anymore.

"Whereas the songs, we speak all the time."

Amos makes a different kind of music now. For her first two albums, it was mostly just her, a beat and a piano. The songs were raw and deeply personal, taking on everything from masturbation to religion to her own rape (the harrowing "Me and a Gun").

Now she writes about broader subjects using a full rock band, and she's even written a few political songs (the anti-Bush tune "Yo George").

Amos realizes many people miss her so-called "confessional songs," but she said she had to change to remain vital. And by the way, she HATES when people call her music "confessional." It smacks of sexism.

"See, men don't get called confessional," she said. "Even if you're Rimbaud or Baudelaire, you don't get called that. But if you're Sylvia Plath, you get called that."

So -- as she tends to do -- Amos took the unexpected path and jettisoned all that confessional stuff. And that creative freedom eventually led to making music as Isabel, Santa, Pip and Clyde.

You have to be brave and try new things, Amos said. Otherwise, you'll stagnate and your career will evaporate.

And Amos plans to stick around for another 15 years. Probably more.

"You have to realize you can play that card only so many times, and then they want the next confessional artist," Amos said. "How many times can you do that?"

"I always understood that. As a female composer, I knew that I had to break out of that compartment. Or I'd be history."

MORE FROM TORI AMOS:

* On how journalists often describe her as scattered and spacey (even though she seemed quite focused for this interview):

"Some of those journalists have an agenda. I've been around a long time, and I'm still composing and doing what I'm doing. And they probably wish they were writing books."

* On RAINN, the rape-and-incest support group she co-founded, and on how there's still a lot of work to do to stop sexual abuse:

"I think what's surprising is that it's ... still... going on. More than any of us could have imagined.

"The enemy is out there, unfortunately. It's usually someone you know. The truth of it is ... harrowing sometimes."

* On the song "Big Wheel" and its humorous chorus:

"I woke up hearing it in my head. And I ran down and started to record it later that day. That was just one of those that happened.

"Some of them, you don't know, maybe there's something in your mind that has been going on for a long, long, long, long time. And all of a sudden, it comes together.

"And it just came together in a dream."

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