sick Bösey

by Richard Handal

On 6 Nov 1998 in Pittsburgh, the MIDI system on the Bösendorfer went away. The effect of this was that during the band portions of the concert the piano was well down in the mix. This was because for the band portions of each concert during the band tours, Tori's piano sound does not come from the microphones on the strings, but is produced by a MIDI system which is sensitive to her playing on the keys of the piano.

The next day before the concert a couple hours northeast of Pittsburgh at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), Mark and the other techs had to work as best they could during the day to figure out how to get the microphone sound of the piano loud enough to be heard over the band. As Tori proudly explained during the concert, they'd brought with them three mattresses from their Pittsburgh hotel and placed them under the soundboard of the Bösey, as well as placing some blankets inside it to dampen the strings. All this had been a gallant attempt to be able to mic the piano loud enough to compete with the drums, guitar, and bass, without first veering into screeching feedback. It wasn't all that successful. What piano there was sounded quite muffled.

I was incredulous when I saw what was going on at that concert, and to verify what I'd seen I asked Mark after it if he had indeed been micing the piano sounds off the strings for the entire concert. He told me, "Yes, and it's been a very BAD day."

Ouch. Well, this would not do at another concert if it could be avoided, so a Yamaha grand was trucked out from New York City for the concert the next evening, 8 Nov 1998, at Ithaca College. The Yamaha had a working MIDI system so there was no problem on that count, although I know Tori missed her Bösey.

Tori is sponsored by Bösendorfer and can't be seen playing a Yamaha in concert, so to hide the Yamaha logo on the side of the piano two South Park dolls were hung over it. (The tour was rife with South Park at this point, but how that came to be is another tangent entirely.) Anyway, Tori's piano tech Trevor is a Bösey specialist but he was stumped with this MIDI problem, so Elton John's MIDI specialist piano tech was flown in from Europe to help get the Bösey back in order.

After the Ithaca concert there was an off day before a concert in Binghamton on the 10th. The Bösey was still out, but instead of the dolls hiding the Yamaha logo, a couple strips of grey gaffer (lighting) tape was placed over it.

After Binghamton there was another off day, then a concert in Rochester. Mark and the other techs clearly thought they may have had the Bösey working again, but after the opening number Marcel and someone else, probably either Trevor or Rob, came out and tossed a bunch of blankets onto the strings of the Bösey, and they were back to using the microphones for the remainder of that concert. All this was around the time of the killing of a doctor in the Rochester area who performed abortions, and there were supposedly extra security concerns at the Rochester concert on top of everything else.

The Bösey was back for the entire following night--oddly, Friday, the 13th of November--for a concert in Poughkeepsie. My seat happened to be about eighteen inches to Mark's left, and after the concert was over I asked him if the piano was really fixed for good or was it just being held together with chewing gum and baling wire. Grinning, he admitted, "Chewing gum for the moment--but it's getting there." I always appreciated Mark's honesty. It was a good thing the Bösey was fixed, because the very next day they had the taping of Sessions at West 54th. Had the Boesendorfer not been working for that concert I can't even imagine the catastrophe. It may have even needed to be canceled. Once this sick piano crisis was resolved the rest of the tour was astonishing. She knew it, too, bless her.

Perhaps oddly, that Ithaca concert was full of great joy and wackiness. Tori finally attempted Anastasia on the tour and murdered it in the process, and she fell twice on her butt; once during LE she missed the bench when she went to sit back down after standing, and the second time during taking bows with the band. I might have been concerned for her, but the second time she fell I looked over at Mark and saw he was smiling, and I heard that Marcel and Witherspoon had been holding up big pieces of paper with large numbers written on them as if they were scoring an Olympic skating event.

Just another day on the road with the bottle redhead.

t o r i p h o r i a