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In NewsWeekly (US, www)
August 3, 2005
Tori Amos' Boston marriage
by William Henderson
FOR HER SUMMER OF SIN TOUR, SINGER-SONGWRITER TORI AMOS VISITS THE CITY SHE CALLS 'INCREDIBLY ROMANTIC,' BOSTON, ON AUGUST 21
It's a Friday morning when Tori Amos calls from Florida. She's spending much of the morning talking with journalists from across the country about her upcoming Summer of Sin concert tour which hits Boston on August 21 at the Bank of America Pavilion.
On the heels of the Original Sinsuality tour, which took her around the world, literally, as well as the release of "The Beekeeper" and her book "Piece by Piece" (written with journalist Ann Powers), it's been quite the year for Amos.
But right now she's in Florida, walking around outside, singing.
"I'm just getting used to the heat," she says. "If you're going to sing in it, you have to be ready for it." Then she admits to singing to herself, making up songs, putting words together; then she reconsiders. "I'm singing more to the lizards than to anything else. If you're a lizard, you get a free ticket to my show."
Like her tour earlier this year, Amos is going on the road, again, sans band. Just her and her piano and organ, and the fans.
"When you're with other musicians, we talk about this romance, a romance that happens with the instruments or it doesn't work," she says, describing a "unity" she achieves when performing with other musicians. "But when you're alone, its very much about holding those archetypes - to dance with the audience and make your own connection with the people who come to the show. It's very different. It's not a little different; it's a lot different. You have to completely rely on yourself for your rhythm. When you breathe, with other musicians, you can take a breath and they'll play. But when you're alone, there's nobody to rely on as far as the physical form."
Nobody, she says, but the audience and her spirit ancestors, the Cherokee tribe to which her "mother's people" belonged.
"I know this land inside and out, but I always learn something when I'm in America," she says. "This is where my bloodline is. My ancestors walk with me here. And I'm able to call on the Native American nation wherever I am. My grandfather taught me about that, this "shape-shifting," and it was through my grandfather teaching me how to enter another native space that I understand how to go from song line to song line, so to speak."
And much like the romance she has with her band, she admits to having a similar feeling for Boston.
"It's the European entry point, that and Virginia," she says. "There's a marriage that occurs with the native and European people, a sacred marriage when you walk into Boston. I'm not talking between male and female as humans; I'm talking about essences. Boston is also such a center of learning. I usually find an open-mindedness that I'm able to tap into, so I welcome that. I find [Boston] incredibly romantic, but I find a man's mind the most romantic thing about him, so call me odd."
Amos afficianados should be pleased to hear that Amos is, again, rolling out what she calls her "piano bar." It's her attempt at returning to her roots, when, as a working singer, she'd play the bars and clubs and take requests from the audience. This was in Georgetown, in places near the White House, she says, where she'd entertain politicians and their mistresses and rent boys. There these men would stand, ordering their dry martinis and asking her to sing anything other than her own music. In today's version of the piano bar, she's received thousands of requests, she says, for songs people want her to cover.
"It's exciting, but I'm a busy gal. I'm a mom. I have a life and I'm just trying to keep it all together. So sometimes I [get the requests] when I'm walking into the door and I can usually find the song or we buy it online," she says. Then she pauses. "I believe in that, buying music online. And then I try and learn the song before I take the stage. Sometimes I fall on my face, but that's what the piano bar is - it's supposed to be fun."
It's also about letting people in her process, she says. Similar to what she hoped to accomplish with her book, "Piece by Piece," she likes giving people a backstage pass into her creative process.
She also likes exposing her audience to new musicians. This is why, she says, she's invited the all-female groups The Ditty Bops and The Like to open for her Summer of Sin tour.
"It's called the Summer of Sin tour, because women were blamed for us getting chucked out of paradise," she says. "We, as women, needed to create a paradise where the patriarchy has no power, no say in what we do. Men are as welcome as women to come into this paradise and not be judged by their sexuality or political beliefs, to be judged as only a person."
And there's Amos' music, which she refers to in the third person as if each song is a living, breathing organism existing outside of her.
"The music is an elixir. To me, music is the greatest healer. For me. Some people don't feel that way. I feel that way," she says. "And I should be able to be a part of it, dance with it, and be in communion with the people who come to the shows. And I really feel like there is a communication that happens with all those people. And the songs want to be able to reach and relate with the people who are listening. Not everone resonates with each song, but [the songs] are there to have conversation with those that they do resonate with, and I have to stay out of the way so that they can do it."
Toward the end of the allotted 15 minutes Amos has for each journalist, she admits to working on new material, perhaps material that could end up on a new album which, she says, probably won't arrive until 2007 at the earliest.
She's also been hearing from songs (her "girls," as she calls them) that want to be played live on this tour.
"Some are knocking on my door," she says, laughing. "They are knocking and telling me it's time, it's time for us. They don't like to come out until, well, familiarity can breed contempt, a few of them are not okay about that; they will not accept that feeling. So, therefore, they come out when they can be appreciated. They come when they want to come."
Tori Amos plays the Bank of America Pavilion on August 21 with two opening acts The Ditty Bops and The Like. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
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