Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Rediscovering Tori

I still remember the first time I saw Tori Amos. It was the spring of '92 and I was working at the campus radio station; for some strange reason a pass for two tickets floated into my hands for a show of hes in a small club in the D.C. area. She was just starting to promote her album Little Earthquakes, and although I had no idea who she was I was intrigued by all the buzz over her.

It was a dark, sitdown club with lots of tables. Everything was pitch black save for the lone, bright light focused on Tori and her piano. Her almost sultry voice and unique piano playing combined in a way I'd never heard before. I didn't really follow all the lyrics at the time, I remember feeling oddly balancde between the sensual and the intellectual. That and her wild, red hair and the way she attacked the piano (one critic used the unfortunate description "humping the piano") gave the performance an almost mystical feel. The club (and Tori as well) made a big deal about her growing up in Baltimore, and I remember her mother was there.

I was smitten, at least for a time. After I actually listened to her album and heard the lyrics to songs like "Crucify" and "Me and a Gun" I realized she was more than just another up-and-coming pop star with attitude. This girl had something to say; and while I didn't get it all at the very green age of 19 I still got into it.

Over the years, my fascination with her waned. I still buy and enjoy her albums, but I don't consider myself much of a fan. I haven't bought her new album yet, and although she's playing live in D.C. soon I have no plans to go. Despite all this, I still picked up the new book Piece by Piece.

The book's not so much a bio as it is a collection of personal essays/interviews expounding on her creative development. For a pretty strong feminist she takes an almost New Age approach to her development places a lot of stock in Jungian-style archetypes. Although only halfway through the book, I can tell that a large part of her interest comes from growing up as a minister's daughter yet loving ideas of rock and roll and sexuality. All of her subsequent work often involves the taking on of seemingly polar opposite roles and examining how they exist simultaneously in everyone. The Virgin Mary/Mary Magdalene roles, for example.

Although I do wish it dug a little deeper, it's an interesting read. But more enjoyable is coming back to her music and re-immersing myself in its powerful beauty. It's like running into an old friend and picking up right where you left off.



Jen said...

I loved Tori's early stuff too. It would be interesting to read the book just to see where her thinking is now, if only because I can't identify with the direction her music has taken (sort of a monontonous downtempo ballad) since From the Choirgirl Hotel. Not that every album should have the intensity of Little Earthquakes, but given Tori's talent, I'd expect every album to be new and exciting. Based on the single I heard from the new album, I'm not sure whether I'll like this one, either.

Hebdomeros said...

What little I've heard has kind of an adult-contemporary/easy listening feel to it. Technically accomplished, but didn't do a whole lot for me.

It's hard, though. Her early work came out of anger and exploration of some dark, gray areas. Its hard to keep doing that, especially if you're in a pretty good place yourself.