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Ohio News-Herald (US)
Lake County, Ohio, newspaper
Monday, October 29, 2007

Power of the "Posse"

Tori Amos enlists the help of a group of alter egos for her latest creative effort.

by John Benson

Taking the power back.

That's what Tori Amos is hoping to do with "American Doll Posse", her recently released studio album. Whether it's tackling the Bush administration's politics in the tenderly condescending "Yo George" or dabbling with a certain four-lettered acronym that begins with the letter M and sort of rhymes with filth on the bubbly "Big Wheel", Amos appears to be on top of her game.

Even though it's been 15 years since the diminutive, red-haired chanteuse released her debut effort, "Little Earthquakes," Amos continues to challenge herself & her fans, musically speaking. While "American Doll Posse" features a wide array of styles, it's the album's narrative use of alter egos -- Santa, Clyde, Isabel, Tori and Pip -- that marks a different approach for the 44-year-old singer-songwriter.

Even more unusual is that on her current tour, which features a backing band and is scheduled to play Cleveland Thursday at the State Theatre, Amos is opening the show as one of her "Posse" personas.

Odd? Perhaps. Typical of Amos' creative spirit? Definitely.

The News-Herald talked to Amos, while she was traveling through Florida, about her tour, the controversy surrounding her single "Big Wheel" and how she views her success.

N-H: We see that you're opening the show as one of your alter egos. Does that include a costume change, which you've never done before?

Tori: Yes, it is the first time but it's not just a costume change. It's more of a performance-art piece and it means also that you have to be really strict with the characters so that when I go out and transform from one to another, you do sense an energetic change.

N-H: One of the strongest images from the different photos of the alter egos concerned the Tori character, who has a Bible in one hand and the word 'shame' spelled out on another.

Tori: I felt that if you call yourself "American Doll Posse", you have to deal with one of the most important power brokers in America, which is the right-wing Christian power broker. Being a minister's daughter, I don't claim to know much in this world, but I do understand how it operates. And how do you combat it? And it seems to me the only way is with idealogy. You have to confront the ideology.

N-H: Upon its release this past summer, your single "Big Wheel" was the center of controversy for the use of the M word (street parlance for an attractive mother whom a male would like to romance). Were you surprised some radio stations refused to play the song?

Tori: I think it's so funny. Doesn't it just justify the whole point, that there are so many things played on the radio -- shocking violent stuff and even shocking sexual stuff -- but yet M--- is shocking. The idea that you have to remember is that the Christian side of advertising cannot accept the idea that the Mother Mary and the Magdalene can unify in women. That's how we've been not as powerful within ourselves for centuries. So when you bring the mother image in with the sexual image, which is liberating, and all mothers should look at themselves in the mirror and say I'm a M---, it's just not accepted. Not by the Christian advertising community. And that's why I did it.

N-H: Invariably, it's an empowering statement to make.

Tori: That's right. It's funny because I'm not saying it to get your approval or to get you to agree -- I don't care what you think of me. This is about a woman looking at herself and claiming it because until she can she's powerless. Then we're looking for you all to call us pretty or sexy. And when a woman says, "I'm enough," then the game is won.

N-H: Here we are, a decade and a half into your career, what are your thoughts looking back?

Tori: It goes by really quickly. There are times when you're in the middle of it when it can be difficult. There's a point when you are the new artist, the first record and you're the 'it' girl, there's a certain kind of adrenaline rush with that. And what you don't understand when it's happening is that's the easiest bit you'll ever have to do. What's difficult is when you're not the 'it' girl and somebody else is, and then you have to start building for yourself your own sonic architecture. Peter Gabriel talked to me about this years ago. He said, "This is all nice and good, but I'm more interested in how you're going to develop as a composer and how you're going to make this your life. And that really stayed with me.

N-H: While many artists have cult followings, your audience seems to be more ardent & steadfast than most. Why is that?

Tori: That's what really keeps me going, because you know the people are there and not because of the tabloids & something shocking, but they're there to hear the music. I must tell you, I do pinch myself sometimes and say, "I'm so grateful to have the greatest audience in the world." It's a privilege to play for them, and I'm not just saying that.

Who: Tori Amos
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Playhouse Suare Center's State Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
Tickets: $42.50 to $49.50 at outlets.

[transcribed by Valerie Leonard]

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