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Birmingham Mail (UK)
August 28, 2009

Variety is the spice of Tori Amos' setlist

by Adrian Caffery, Birmingham Mail

SOME diehard fans will follow their favourite musicians around the country, parting with hard-earned cash to watch the same show night after night.

Tori Amos, for instance, has a passionate following and it's inevitable that hundreds of fans will have secured tickets for all five dates on her forthcoming UK tour.

What sets Tori's fans apart, however, is that they are more likely to predict six winning lottery numbers than they are the American singer-songwriter's nightly setlists.

In 2007, on her American Doll Posse tour, Tori played more than 100 different songs on the American leg alone. Not so difficult, you may argue, for just one woman sat at a piano. But these days Tori tours with a band and, of course, they have to learn the myriad songs, too.

Tori started her Sinful Attraction Tour in the United States in July and her live repertoire is building up nicely again ahead of her Birmingham show on September 7.

So how does Tori decide what's in and what's out every night?

"It's certainly more difficult than it was in, say, 1992 when I'd only released one album," she says. "It's good to have more choice but it makes it harder to please everyone."

Tori, who is most well known for Cornflake Girl and Professional Widow, can pluck songs from her 11 studio albums, the latest being this summer's Abnormally Attracted To Sin. But she'll also throw in the odd cover version. She recently surprised an audience by performing the Britney Spears classic Baby One More Time.

"That was a song I just felt like having a crack at," she says. "But I'll often agree to try some unusual requests like, for instance, Maniac from the film Flashdance.

"Sometimes people just want to challenge me."

Tori takes to the road every couple of years, performing two-hour shows, and she's showing no signs of slowing down, despite being a little nearer to 50 years old than 40.

"I love playing live," she says. "To me, being on stage is just the most magical place a musician can be. You don't get the same rush in the studio. You don't get to start again if you make a mistake."

Tori has played Wolverhampton's Civic Hall many times over the years but her Symphony Hall date will be her first in Birmingham since 1992 when she supported Marc Cohn.

It will be a rare home fixture for her regular sound engineers, Redditch-based SSE Audio Group, a company which has special significance for Tori.

Her husband of 11 years, Mark Hawley, once worked for SSE. They first met when he was front of house engineer on the Under The Pink tour in 1994.

They set up home in a remote Cornish farmhouse and converted a barn into a recording studio, where Mark engineers Tori's self-produced albums.

Has Tori been Anglicised by her English surroundings, her English husband and her eight-year-old English daughter?

"No," she says defiantly. "I'm becoming more American. It's my rebellion. Plus, I have kept a beach villa in Florida since 1995. I'm a lizard lady and need the sun."

On days off on the tour, Tori has been recording a "winter solstice" album featuring her twist on ancient carols with lots of strings, brass, tubular bells and harpsichord.

Ummmm, sounds to me like she's becoming more English than she's ready to admit to.

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