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San Antonio Express-News (US)
November 21, 2007

Amos and her alter egos coming to S.A.

Jim Beal Jr. Express-News Staff Writer

The power went out a week ago. The third floor was dark; no lights, no computers. Thirty minutes went by, then 40 minutes, then 45.

The telephone rang. A telephone ringing in the dark will give you a start.


"Uh, yes, yes. The power's out."

"This is Kristen. I have Tori on the line. Tori, here's Jim."

"Hello, Jim, this is Tori."

The lights went on. The hard drives clicked back to life.

Tori Amos got the power to come back on.

Sure, it could have been a coincidence, but on her latest CD, American Doll Posse (Epic), Amos serves up five characters, Pip, Santa, Isabel, Clyde and Tori, across 23 songs. Turning power back on might pale when stacked against that accomplishment.

"It took a lot of brainpower on a lot of people's part," Amos said about making the CD, not about restoring the power. "There was the sonic team and the visual team. The sonic team was brought in early on; the band was brought in early, earlier than normal. We worked out the arrangements as a unit, so it's not a singer/songwriter album. For the album to work, we had to unleash the power of the band. Matt (longtime drummer Matt Chamberlain) had to be unleashed."

Amos is a singer, songwriter and pianist who knows how to move between rock and ballads and how to connect with her audience. For 15 years, Amos has been releasing albums that strike literal and figurative chords.

Monday, Amos and her band, Chamberlain, bassist Jon Evans (another longtime collaborator) and Dan Phelps (guitar), will strike those chords in the Majestic Theatre with Yoav opening.

"I started developing the album when I was on the road with Beekeeper. I started developing it internally," she said. "It's based on the Greek pantheon. It was an ah-ha! moment after 15 years, and it came about because I read a lot of books about ancient male and ancient female archetypes. These days we look to the red carpet for our archetypes, but Anna Nicole Smith was a damaged Aphrodite.

"When you really look at it, you begin to see how really complicated things are. You don't want your Queen of the Underworld hiding drugs in her glove compartment."

Don't get the idea that, with American Doll Posse, Amos set out to craft a male vs. female song cycle.

"There's a lot of testosterone in this project," she said. "I went to the rock gods musically."

Amos ran down the list of songs, checking off male rocker influences as she went. They run the gamut from Ry Cooder to Led Zeppelin, from The Damned to David Bowie.

"Thematically, it's female," she said. "Musically, there's testosterone everywhere."

Many songwriters say they can't write while they're on tour. Amos found inspiration on the road.

"On tour, you're exposed to so much energy from so many different people," she said. "You're exposed to so many people you wouldn't have over for cocktails, not because you wouldn't want to, necessarily, but because you don't know them. Being a composer is about being an observer. If you're going to walk into my life, you might end up in a song."

Amos writes the kind of songs that fans seem to love to dissect.

"You have to detach yourself from your songs," she said. "I've gotten letters from people who were offended by something I did in concert and I can't figure out how they connected the dots from what I did to what offended them. A lot of times people will project their damage onto a performer. Because they have issues, they tend to magnify them through a performer.

"I also get people who say, 'Your song saved my life.' I'll say, 'You saved your life.' That is the truth. When we're adults, we are the hands that rock our own cradles."

Amos and the band are touring behind the American Doll Posse CD, but the concert set will be varied.

"The back catalog is well-represented," Amos said, laughing. "We try to put a new song in every show, but some songs take a bit of time."

Pip, Santa, Clyde, Isabel and Tori will not all work the Majestic.

"One of the four that isn't Tori shows up," Amos said. "That will be Act 1. Then Tori does Act 2."

And if the power happens to go off, don't bet against Tori Amos cranking it back up.

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