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The Palm Beach Post (US)
West Palm Beach, Florida, newspaper
Monday, November 19, 2007

Which Tori Is Coming To Town?

by Leslie Gray Streeter
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

"So what's it like there right now?" Tori Amos asks, before she even says "Hello."

The singer/songwriter/pianist/happily cryptic feminist icon, known for diverse albums from Little Earthquakes to Scarlet's Walk, isn't just being polite. When Amos makes a pre-Thanksgiving visit to the Kravis Center on Wednesday, she won't be a visitor - she is a part-time South Floridian, splitting her time with husband Mark Hawley and daughter, Natashya, between a home in the Stuart area and one in Cornwall, England.

Speaking of splitting her time, Amos' tour finds her dividing her sets between two of the five distinct female personas from whose perspective she sings on her recent ninth album, American Doll Posse. There's warrior Pip, political Isabel, vulnerable but hopeful Clyde, sensual Santa and Tori, a caricature of Amos herself.

Even Tori doesn't know who you're going to meet on Wednesday - it's all a part of a process that she's happy to discuss, along with British humor, her cosmic connection to Ziggy Stardust, and puns involving a certain massively popular line of historical dolls.

Question: Anyone who has seen you in concert, or spoken to you, knows that you've got a wicked sense of humor. Yet the last thing a lot of people would think of describing you as is "funny." Why do you think that is?

Answer: Well, I think they're surprised because the subject matter of some of the songs can be intense. But you gotta figure that I've been hanging with the Brits for a while, and if you can't laugh at them, they're gonna leave you behind. They're at their best when things are at their worst. They have that humor that's unique to them. I love (the Brits) dearly ... They don't know how to handle beautiful and perfect. They know how to handle gloom.

Q: Having lived in England for awhile now, where do you think that comes from?

A: It's more that their (idea) of character is more complicated. What is a benevolent person, for instance? (Being benevolent) doesn't mean that you can't be strong and tough. So the idea of what a heroine is, is very different. Look at Helen Mirren. She's a strong, strong character, and I wouldn't use the words "warm and fuzzy" to describe her. She's lovely. But she's complicated.

But in the States, you get these stereotypes, especially about women, that are very myopic and simplified. You know, how a quote-unquote nice person comes across as extremely vapid. If she has a little bit of bite, she's thought of as difficult. It's not "I want her in my corner" but "She's a bitch." Where is our definition of the "positive female role model"? It should be, No. 1, intelligent and, No. 2, strong.

Q: Which brings us to the Dolls on your album. How do you decide which of the girls will make her appearance during each show?

A: It really depends on the day. It (can) all change. I'm in Kansas City today - we went to Haskell University (in Lawrence, Kan.), which is for Native Americans, and had the privilege of having a blessing done by an Eastern Cherokee leader, who are my mother's people. You can only be blessed by someone in your nation. It was incredibly humbling and exciting, one of the most memorable experiences of my life. (The show) can be affected by that. ... If (husband) Mark and Tash (daughter Natashya) - and let's put this in positive terms - if they went off in a space ship to go colonize space, and didn't come back, I could see part of myself walking into Isabel's life. I could walk into Pip's life, which is a little more extreme.

Q: Are there more stories to tell with these ladies?

A: It's a dangerous game. You and I both know that all good stories have to come to an end. For Ziggy Stardust to become what he was, he had to go away. We miss him, don't we? But if he didn't go away, we would never miss him.

Q: It's funny you should mention Ziggy, because critics keep comparing these personas of yours to David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona.

A: Of course, when I was developing this, I was very aware of him. I played the Apollo in London, on the anniversary of the day of Ziggy's last performance, which was there.

Q: How do you get into character?

A: There's a level of performance art here. I structure each woman within a chakra system with ancient myths that correlate with each other, from a vocabulary of over 100 ancient female archetypes. If you know the myths and the stories, you can step into it immediately.

Q: I must admit, I laugh every time I see the title American Doll Posse because it reminds me of the American Girls dolls, which of course are completely different. I always catch myself thinking, "Now wouldn't that be an interesting concept album, to have Tori Amos deconstruct the American Girls?"

A: (laughs) The dark version! There is a little dark comedy happening with that. Of course, my daughter is completely into (the American Girls), because she's 7. So there is a bit of humor in there. These women (on American Doll Posse) have affected me greatly. I allow them to take over my being, and I'm forever changed by them.

When Tori's In Town

Tori Amos and her family retreat to their home in the Stuart area when they are stateside and off tour.

Unlike everybody else, she prefers the summer here: "I'm a lizard. It's gotta be hot."

She lies "really low" when in town. "It's about trying to have a family experience."

But... "Sometimes, you can see me about. I have my haunts," she says, declining to name them. "Usually, people are pretty cool. It's such a laid-back atmosphere, and that's one reason we spend time down here. This is the place where you take off the makeup and the personas. It's almost as if you peel a layer of skin off."

Kind of like a lizard? "Jim Morrison was the Lizard King, and you've got to have a Lizard Queen. I don't know who else would have that moniker but me."

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