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Syracuse Post-Standard (US)
Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tori Amos concert to showcase her alter egos

By Mark Bialczak
Staff writer

Tori Amos thinks her 6-year-old daughter Natashya gets the concept of the singer-songwriter's ninth CD, American Doll Posse.

"I think that Tash understands it better than some grown-ups could," Amos says during a phone interview from her beach house in Florida. "Because role-playing is not that much of a stretch for little girls at that stage.

"In one minute they're the prime ministers, and the next minute they're a pop star, and the next minute they're a teacher," Amos says in much the same breathy tone she uses when she's at her Bosendorfer piano and making her music. "Going from one image to another is not schizophrenic for a child. It's trying on a different self as they're exploring."

Amos puts on a bunch of different hats for 18 of the 23 songs from American Doll Posse, the new album she'll bring to the Landmark Theatre for her Saturday night show.

She wrote those songs from the perspective of four alter egos: Santa, Pip, Clyde and Isabel. The other five she wrote for, and sings as, herself.

Amos says the approach comes from her observation that far too often people become stuck inside a box they put themselves in years and years ago.

"As we get older, you begin to see that people feel really trapped in the life that they picked for themselves," Amos says. "You can get stereotyped. Walk into the stereotypes almost as if we've been drugged by some force."

Equally harmful, Amos says, are assumptions that the world makes based on a woman's looks.

"I watched how when you look at a girl that's tattooed, you come up with a certain judgment about her," Amos says. "The last thing you think is, 'She is great in physics.' You can really get this very wrong. You look at the one that's standing in Starbucks in a cashmere sweater, and you don't know she was tied up the night before. You don't think of that."

Amos' conclusion: "How we present ourself doesn't always signify who we are."

So Amos submerged herself in the other four women's personas as she wrote the songs. If it sounds complicated, she says, that's because it was. No surprise to her fans; they named her online fanzine Really Deep Thoughts.

Amos says her characters are modern women who represent ancient archetypes. Isabel is outwardly political. Clyde is an idealist who's emotional. Pip has the energy of a warrior. And Santa is the most sensual.

And yes, Amos says, they brought out different musical ideas in her head.

"By having many voices in one story, that is how I can justify applying many different rock-god styles to this work," Amos says. "Musically, I know I needed some testosterone or this wasn't going to be the kind of work I wanted it to be. So I went to the guys and I studied and I studied.

"I went back for two years. David Bowie. Freddie Mercury. John Lennon. Even early James Taylor. I tried not to leave any of them out," Amos says.

"It was easy once the producer side of me had the conversation with the singer-songwriter in me and said, you had a lot (of) records, girlfriend, with the theme of the singer-songwriter, even if you were exploring. This time I need you to be a composer and a player," Amos says.

Reviews of the disc have been positive.

"If freedom from oppression is the guiding principle, Amos demonstrates her winning strategy in the most fundamental musical terms: She's a heavy rocker, ruminative poet, winsome popster and mystical enchantress," wrote Boston Globe reviewer Joan Anderman. "American Doll Posse is a lush sprawl of an album that works with or without the feminist playbook."

Onstage, Amos says, American Doll Posse really rocks. Her fans come knowing to expect something different, and they aren't disappointed.

"When you unleash the titans, you have to understand and you have to know you're not projecting a red-headed singer-songwriter," Amos says. "You're playing with a red-headed piano player who thinks she can kick your ass. At the Belgian fest, I think we held our own against Metallica."

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