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Orange County Register (US)
Monday, April 25, 2005
Tori Amos still inspires devotion in her fans
The confessional tone of her albums has turned to external issues.
By Greg Hardesty
The Orange County Register
Tori Amos was roaming.
Her cell phone was on roam. Her mind was on roam.
The piano-playing songwriter's bus was bouncing through some warm and dusty place between Dallas and Denver on her 15-city "Original Sinsuality Tour," which ends today in Los Angeles before moving to Australia and Europe.
"I love the West - love it, love it, love it," Amos said. "The great Wild West."
Amos used the image as a metaphor for her acclaimed body of nine albums, from her stunningly confessional debut "Little Earthquakes" in 1992 to the bloodletting of "Boys for Pele" (1996) and "From the Choirgirl Hotel (1998) to her latest, "The Beekeeper," a 19- song trip through decidedly sunnier landscapes.
"It's like the Wild West, all these albums," Amos said with a laugh, during a 15-minute conversation that touched on Mary Magdalene, her "very male" B3 Hammond organ, and her 5-year-old daughter, Natashya, who recently had this conversation with her famous 41-year-old mom:
"Mommy, you're growing younger."
"How do you figure that?"
"Because I like talking to you better."
Really deep thoughts, indeed.
"These albums all hold something very different - for different moods, you know," said Amos, born in North Carolina to a Methodist preacher and part-Cherokee mother, enrolled in Baltimore's prestigious Peabody Institute at age 5, and worshipped throughout her career as sexual healer, Earth Mother, pixie-dust-laden fairy princess – all these archetypes, and more.
There's a reason Amos' rabid fans – some men have told her she inspired them to have a sex change – notice a mellowing-out in the music and lyrics of their flame-haired prophetess, who once was photographed breastfeeding a pig and who has sung openly about being raped, suffering three miscarriages and surviving caustic breakups.
"Well, let's face it," Amos said. "If you're bloodletting over the same reasons at 41 that you were at 30, then you are a very sad, tragic case. You're in big trouble. ...
"The bloodletting now comes out over issues, not over just waking up and (complaining) about what's being done to you. It's not all about me.
"At a certain point, once you've traversed those journeys in songs, you don't really need to go there - you don't need to do it over and over again.
"If you start writing the same record over and over again, then everyone leaves you behind."
Amos' music still can be toxic – war, religion and sex are the themes of "The Beekeeper" – but her music has been honeyed-up, more grooving than gut-wrenching.
As she writes in "Piece by Piece," the autobiography that came out with her new album, "I'm beyond the fury of youth at this point."
Amos still has plenty to screech about, but these days, it's mostly about the world around her – not her interior world, in which she has chronicled her struggle to penetrate, literally and figuratively, a patriarchal society.
In a new song, "Mother Revolution," Amos – from her familiar perch in front of her Bösendorfer piano – tears into the war in Iraq. Mothers, she said, have been put into the horrible position of choosing between love for their country and for their child.
"Why do (they) have to choose?" Amos asked indignantly. "I mean, why can't you love your country and say, 'Well, Mr. President, if you love your country, why aren't you sending your daughters if you believe so much in the war?'
"And it's not just him (President Bush). 'Mother Revolution' is for all those people who are OK with the war. But would they send their own children? And the question is, for what? Is the war really for emancipation and freedom, or is it for some oil contracts?"
On the "Original Sinsuality" tour, Amos performs solo with her piano, keyboards and organ, with covers of two or three songs requested by fans on her Web site.
The solo performance is a return to Amos' early touring days, and a departure from the "Scarlet's Walk" (2002) tour, in which she formed a jazz-style trio with her longtime collaborators, drummer Matt Chamberlain and bassist Jon Evans.
"I guess I'm in a resurrecting mood," Amos said. "The minister's daughter in me enjoys that symbology, so I said, 'OK, hang on. She is risen.'"
"The Beekeeper" debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard chart. The theme of a woman reconciling two seemingly warring images of herself - nurturer and sensual figure - permeates the 80-minute disc, but there is ample uplift, from the AOR-friendly "Sleeps With Butterflies" to "Ribbons Undone," a sweet song about her daughter.
Continuing with the feel of "Scarlet's Walk," there isn't a lot of the sonic angst that drenched "Boys for Pele," named after a Hawaiian volcano goddess who devoured sacrificial boys, or "From the Choirgirl Hotel," arguably Amos' best work.
Tori fans are known for combing through her notoriously cryptic lyrics, with their references to the Bible and mythology, seeking clues about their heroine's psyche. And although Amos has bared a lot of herself in her work, she says it's a mistake to try to read too much into her songs.
"I think it's very easy for people to decide that my earlier work is more personal than my later work, but nobody knows that - nobody has any idea!" Amos said. "My husband doesn't even know.
"And that's why I've stayed around so long, because nobody really knows what the music is about ... .
"So when I'm writing about real events and real people, whether it's the tragic death of my brother (Michael), which shows up in 'The Beekeeper' - why does that matter?"
Amos can't explain the frenzied devotion.
"There have been other musicians who have come up to me and said, 'Can we borrow your audience?' And I say, 'You have to ask them.'
"I don't know (how to explain it). I really don't know. I really think it's about mutual respect.
"Because, you know, there always are going to be people you wouldn't want to have a plate of spaghetti with. But for the most part, I think my fans are a pretty good lot."
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