Tori Amos has been making me feel all the things since before feeling all the things was even a thing.
My first time seeing her was at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA on April 27, 1992. This was of course the “Little Earthquakes” tour. The Iron Horse is a tiny, historic venue and my friends and I were the last ones in and because the place was already packed the three of us were seated on a bench just off the the side of the stage. In other words; insane seating that I’ll never forget. The 1992 version of myself sat there in awe of what transpired for the next hour and a half. From “Crucify,” “Precious Things,” “Silent All These Years” and the other-worldly title track it was a transfixing show from a woman who straddled her piano bench in a acrobatic way and who held my heart in her hand with every note sung and played. I’ll especially never forget when she hit us with Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The wind was knocked out of me and I’ve been gasping for breath ever since. After the show my two friends and I tapped on the dressing room door and she opened it and welcomed us in where we sat and chatted for about 15 minutes. She was lovely. I’ve been a hardcore fan ever since and used to be a rabid collector or every Tori related thing I could get my hands on; mostly import CD singles with b-sides, live tracks, etc. Because that’s how it was being a Tori fan. I was all in. I still am.
Since that first show in 1992 I would estimate I’ve seen Amos live about a dozen times. Sometimes solo, sometimes with a band and always magnificent. I don’t mean to hit you with such a profound cliche but I’m goddamn going to. There is truly no one quite like her. Like many of her fans, I literally can’t imagine my life without the “Little Earthquakes,” album. Not to mention “Under the Pink,” “Boys for Pele,” etc etc etc. She writes from a place that not everyone can access. It’s like her brain and heart and soul all converge and the songs arrive from the sky on umbrella clasping pixies. Or something like that. We may never know. What I do know is that Tori Amos is one part goddess, one part genius, one part sorceress and one part tender-hearted human. Listening to her music is is like visiting an astral plane. And it’s like therapy because she goes places with her songs that will rip your guts out and make you weep like you’ve just discovered what crying is and you’re not sure if you’ll be able to stop.
Which brings me to last night’s show in at one my favorite spots on earth, the Orpheum Theatre in the heart of Boston. It has been six years since my last Tori show and my fellow hardcore Tori fan and friend Laura and practically genuflected before walking in. This was, somehow perfectly, soon after walking right by another goddess outside the venue by the name of Amanda Palmer. But that’s a WHOLE other story. My immediate reaction was to stop and talk to her but we kept on walking because, I don’t know, it seemed like the right thing to do at that moment. I’ll be seeing Amanda’s band Dresden Dolls on Saturday night at The Paradise, also in Boston, so look for that review soon. But know this: I am almost surprised that the earth didn’t stop spinning for a few moments when both of these women were in the same room at the same time. Jesus. H. Christ.
Laura and I repaired to entirely wonderful seats about seven rows back in the center section of the balcony and enjoyed a nifty set from openers Scars on 45.
And then it happened. At about twenty past eight. The house lights dimmed and out walked Tori Amos dressed in a turquoise blue(ish) silk blouse, black leggings and her beloved high-heels. She gave us a wave and took her spot on the 18 inch high rectangular platform where she sat between two pianos, including her signature Bosendorfer grand. It was time for the Boston stop on her “Native Invader” tour to begin.
Despite still recovering from one of the world’s worst colds of my life, I for real stood up and screamed for joy. It could not be helped. Many of us did. Tori joy cannot and should not be contained.
Tori started the show off with “Ileee” from her 1998 album “From the Choir Girl Hotel” and a feeling of pure bliss overcame me. Nothing else in the world mattered other than this exact moment. This is rare for me, more rare than you can possibly know.
And then Tori Amos played the second song of her show and Laura and I both had tears in our eyes. For me, it was like 25 years of my life flashed before me. Emotions stabbed at me, old demons visited, my heart felt like a pinata being shown no mercy. And I loved EVERY second of it. The song? “Little Earthquakes” with these lines:
Oh these little earthquakes
Here we go again
These little earthquakes
Doesn’t take much to rip us into pieces
And these lines: Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again.
The song ended and I turned to Laura and said “the show could end now and that would be OK.”
Tori, however, was just getting started. She played another 15 songs spanning several albums including “Reindeer King” from the mesmerizing “Native Invader.”
Tori pivoted on her stool back and forth from one piano to the other, never missing a beat. On more than one occasion she played both pianos simultaneously.
I had several heart attacks during the show, especially during “Cooling,” “Northern Lad,” Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat,” Lloyd Cole’s “Rattlesnakes” and “Honey.”
She ended with “Beauty of Speed” but we knew she’s be back for an encore. A minute or so later, Tori walked back out on stage and stood before us. I did the only thing I knew how to do at that moment. I screamed “Precious Things” in the loudest voice I’ve probably ever used in my entire life. And while I am not taking credit for it, I all but collapsed in a Tori Amos induced fever when she launched into the song.
Tori closed out the night with “A Sorta Fairytale.” I love the song and although I may have chosen a different one to end with it did not detract from what was was a truly enthralling night of songs from one of my favorite artists. BTW, vocally, she’s sounding as strong, vibrant and well, Tori-esque as she ever has.
Tori Amos has 15 studio albums and about a zillion b-sides and such out in the world. It’s never too late to start your own voyage of discovery. Start with the new one “Native Invader” and work your way back. Or start somewhere in the middle. Or start with “Y Kant Tori Read” or the sacred “Little Earthquakes.” But prepare yourself for an emotional journey like none other.
And if you ever get the chance to see her live, either on this tour or the next one, GO SEE HER.