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Tulsa World (US)
Sunday, October 4, 1998
Section H: Arts
cover caption: Tori Amos brings her songs to town.
Amos behavin' Grab the piano stool. Tori strikes up the band.
By Thomas Conner
Enough with the girl-and-a-piano thing. Tori Amos is ready to grow a little.
After several tours featuring herself alone at her notorious Bösendorfer grand, with the occasional guitarist to inject a different texture here and there, amos opted this year to hit the road with a full band. In an interview this week, the flowery songwriter said it's just the refresher her music needed.
"These aren't backup musicians. That's not their temperament," Amos said. "When you hear the show, it's not like a singer-songwriter with a backup band. That isn't what gets me going. I wanted the piano to be the gratuitous backbeat... I wanted the piano to be more integrated into a larger whole. She's happy, and so am I."
"She" is the piano. Seems Amos is on third-person feminine terms with the instrument. That's only one of a bevy of eccentricities that rounds out the enigmatic character of the elfin Amos.
Her alluring character is part of what draws millions to her intense, Led Zeppelin-fghts-Liz story compositions. Her first three solo albums -- Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink, and Boys for Pele -- have sold millions each, despite fleeting radio exposure, and her current offering, From the Choirgirl Hotel on Atlantic Records, is creeping toward that goal.
With that chunk of history behind her, Amos said she plans to both reshape some songs through this expanded tour and then re-examine them via a live recording. the decision to produce the live album is fresh, she said.
"I just decided to do this," Amos said. "It dawned on me about a month ago. The kids have been asking about it. They're sick of the bad quality of the (bootlegged recordings). I've been pretty blown away at how bad the quality is, too. I think we'll do the live album for next Christmas -- a double CD with B-sides. I feel pretty excited about it."
By bringing a band on this tour, Amos said many of her old songs have been reworked to accommodate the increased number of players and their individual styles. "For instance, Matt Chamberlain is not a polite drummer. That's not what he does. So I knew I had to take this to a different level, and it's working," she said. "It's definitely a plugged-in show. It's not just you and the piano alone anymore."
"A lot of the old songs are being reworked. The band has tackled 'Horses' and 'Waitress' much differently. It's exciting to see the songs take a different shape... Some of them don't want to go into the new territory, though, like 'Winter' and "Hey Jupiter". You can't just put a drum on something for the sake of it. 'Horses' on the (Boys for Pele) album was just the piano going through a Leslie cabinet. Now it has a really different read, but it can hold it.
'Father Lucifer' didn't have drums on it originally, but now that Matt's on it, we had to move the arrangement around. It's like a Rubik's cube; if you move one thing, you've got to move another."
In so doing, the colors change. Sometimes that creates an entirely different effect to a song, and Amos said she's still reaping new understanding from her own songs. The larger presentation reshaped some of the songs, but life experiences since the songs were originally formed have give her new perspectives on them.
"Sometimes when I sing a song like 'Spark', I get a different meaning to it," Amos said. "Writers don't actuallly create. There's a creative force, and we reach up and take that song and pull it out of the sky. Sometimes you only pull down two measures at a time, and you have to craft the rest. Call it your muse, or whatever, I don't care. I just think it's arrogant to think that you do this alone. The songs have meanings that I don't even know abut because they come from Her. I even hear a song from Little Earthquakes and because of what happened to me that day I think 'Wow, I've never heard it this way.' Who knows how it works? It's one of the great mysteries."
Amos is pulling things out of the sky pretty much throughout each show. She only makes a set list half an hour before each performance, and even then she might not stick to it.
"Nothing's guaranteed out there," she said. "I don't even know what I'm going to do most of the time, particularly the stuff I do myself at the piano. I'll start playing a couple of notes with crossed fingers and hope something will come. That's why live shows work or don't work. You can't tie yourself to a certain sequence. Sometimes the audience wants to go somewhere else and you can't pretend that's not happening."
She does perform a few songs by herself at the piano. In fact, she's been playing Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" on several occassions on this tour, which has been on the road since April.
Opening the show for amos is the atmospheric irish trio the Devlins, still supporting their acclaimed sophomore album Waiting.
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