If “Beauty Queen/Horses”, the opening track of Amos’ dark masterpiece Boys for Pele was tasked with immediately informing listeners that she was coloring outside the lines of quirky and edging into full-on surrealism, the record’s second track, “Blood Roses”, carried the burden of warning ears that this trip would also be full of aggressive catharsis and rubbed-raw sexuality. “To heal the wound,” Amos once told 20/20, “you have to go to the dark night of the soul”, a vaguely hopeful sentiment perfectly befitting of “Roses”, a pained track that ends perhaps on the bleakest note of any Tori song (“when he sucks you deep/sometimes you’re nothing but meat”).
Amos’ performances of the song on her 1996 Dew Drop Inn tour were faithful to the bones of the studio album, with the 5 foot 2 Amos lurched over a century-old harpsichord (the first and only time Tori would include it in her live productions), hammering out a bizarre, quasi-medieval melody as she alternately hissed and shouted her way through each biting lyric. The results: a one-of-a-kind arrangement that has never been—and could never be—emulated.
Knowing that she’d need to do something drastically different the next time she introduced “Roses” into her set lists, Amos treated the song to a top down revamping on her 1999 tour in support of To Venus and Back. Mirroring that record’s spacy-synth vibe, Tori elongated the song, dwelling on certain turns of phrases, wailing nearly-unintelligible words over a strange sample resembling nothing in nature, and reconstructing the song’s final minutes into a wrenching profane rant that both rivals “The Waitress” in escalating intensity and references an until-then innocuous b-side, “Toodles Mr. Jim” in such a way that the close listener might decipher a far more sinister and unsettling narrative than the one Tori originally told. A more recent stylistic shift occurred in 2010, on a brief solo tour of Australia and Europe, Amos approaching the song like a one woman band: situated between her grand Bosendorfer and multiple synthesizers, each emitting its own ghostly sound, Tori married the organic and the electronic, breathing—well, hyperventilating—new life into one of the songs most illustrative of her unrivaled artistry.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
"PopMatters (est. 1999) is a respected source for smart long-form reading on a wide range of topics in culture. PopMatters serves as…READ the article