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Rip It Up (Australia)
September 13, 2007


by Scott McLennan

Tori Amos is tired. Sitting backstage at Global Studios in Melbourne prior to her Rove Live appearance, the Cornwall-based musician is contemplating the possibility that her current world tour in support of her ninth studio album American Doll Posse could be her last.

"I've been touring for so many years that I just don't know if it's still going to happen," she begins. "I've been touring almost every other year since 1991. You know when you watch people go back to the Olympics and they can't really run anymore and you think, 'Why didn't you make another decision?' While the shows are powerful I think that's a good way to leave people for a while."

It's a remarkable revelation. A child prodigy accepted at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory Of Music's at the age of five, Tori Amos has been performing live for more than 30 years. Whether winning talent contests in the 1970s, playing with Guns N' Roses drummer Matt Sorum in shortlived 1980s rock act Y Kant Tori Read or earning global acclaim in the 1990s via breakthrough solo debut Little Earthquakes and its stunning follow-up Under the Pink, live performance has been a pivotal piece of Tori's musical puzzle. The current tour finds her alternating performances between the five divergent personalities found performing on American Doll Posse -- the sexy Santa, the waifish Clyde, the political Isabel, the confrontational Pip and Tori herself. So have any of the Posse been more prominent in live shows?

"That's an interesting question," Tori muses. "I think that Pip is explosive and I think Santa is a lot of fun and I do rely on those two a lot for powerhouse shows. The other two are complex and in some ways take a lot more internal energy. Isabel is the hardest show I do technically. I don't know if an audience is ready for Isabel, since she's very political and you have to have an audience prepared to do more than just shake their booty. Each one of them has affected me in ways that are hard to describe. I'm not the same person I was before I made this album."

In Slovakia earlier in the year, Tori threw her shoes at a brutish security guard manhandling a fan who attempted to watch her show from the aisle. The singer later suggested knowing how to say "cocksucker" in Slovak would have helped her control the situation.

"My goal is to learn how to say 'cocksucker' in every language that exists," Tori explains. "I'd like to know it in every Middle Eastern language -- I'd like to be able to say 'cocksucker' in Farsi. Everybody needs to know that and I'll tell you why. If you happen to be in that moment where you need that word and you don't know how to say it, you're going to start throwing your shoes at people. I don't know if you heard what happened but the security guards take themselves very seriously. I understand why they need to clear people from the aisles, but when you have a security guard yelling at an audience member to the point that everybody is turning around looking at him -- during 'Winter' -- then we all stopped and wanted no more. I don't like it when people are abusing their authority and so I pulled rank."

Tori's back catalogue proves her to be an artist at ease with unnerving frankness, cheeky humour, lyrical fragility and moving narratives. Having sung of harrowing personal experiences with sexual assault and miscarriage, Tori admits that she and her husband, British producer Mark Hawley, avoid explaining some of her songs to her seven-year-old daughter Natashya.

"There are songs that still go over her head, which is good," Tori confides. "You're always walking a fine line with answering a child because the idea to tell the truth and nothing but the truth is not always the best thing to do in life. You have to realise that this person cannot compute this information at this time and it's just going to wreck their world. We don't always talk to Tash about some things in the music -- especially the sexual stuff."

The warmth Tori conveys when speaking of her daughter indicates her decision to quit touring was firmly based around a commitment to her family.

"Tash said to me, 'You know, Mummy, sometimes kids at school think I have a charmed life and in some ways I do being your kid and travelling the world. I love you Mummy and I wouldn't trade it, but there's a side to my life that nobody understands.' I think that's true -- this is Tash's fifth world tour and there are times when she doesn't see her bed for months at a time. There are sides to her life that people think are glamorous, but there's another side to it as well."

In what now seems like an anticipatory sign of American Doll Posse, a line on Tori's 1996 track "Hey Jupiter" states, "Thought I knew myself so well, all the dolls I had."

"Strange, isn't it?" Tori agrees. "I know what you're saying and that dawned on me when I was singing it not so long ago. Sometimes as a composer and a creator you might be working towards something but you are not in a place to contain that work yet. I've wondered what it would have been like if I had done [Posse] years ago. I don't think they would have been anything like they are now, as these women are based on many years of experience, disappointment, realisations and explorations. I don't think until I became a mum I was able to allow myself to really experience some of these different facets."

Tori Amos plays Thebarton Theatre on Thu Sep 20. American Doll Posse is out through Sony/BMG.

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