Music

The Tori Amos Canon - Part 4: Companions

The next best thing to listening to a Tori album? Listening to live Tori. And watching Tori. And reading about Tori. And, well, you get the picture. PopMatters give you a rundown of some of Amos’ must-have audio, visual, and literary supplements.

ON THE ROAD

PopMatters: How do you approach your physicality as accompaniment to the music when you perform?

Tori Amos: You don’t play from your hands. You play from your core. You have to train. You have to make sure your physical stamina is up to where it needs to be, which is kind of good because I hate the gym, so touring forces me to pull it together. It’s about practicing, it’s about getting yourself ready by practicing. I like the rower but right now there’s not one in the hotel room so there you go! (Laughs)

“I always loved playing two keyboards at the same time because of the sound you can create, and so when you play in your upper register with your left hand on one keyboard and then on another keyboard you’re playing with a mid-range with your right hand and then they cross, the patterns you make with your left hand—you usually hear those patterns middle C and down—and so when you change this up, you’re hearing patterns that your ear isn’t used to hearing. So there are reasons why I do it, to achieve that effect.

PopMatters: And you look really great doing it.

Tori Amos: Oh good! (Laughs)

Welcome to Sunny Florida (2004)

The Original Bootlegs (2005)

Legs and Boots (2007)

The Tori Amos Video Collection: Fade to Red (2006)

Live at Montreux (2009)

One of the most tour-hardy artists on the scene, Amos’s command as a live performer has always constituted a big part of her appeal, and her magnetism in concert is something that no video or audio recording can ever fully get across. Nonetheless, each of these three releases does a pretty good job of conveying the heady experience of Amos Live. The Welcome to Sunny Florida DVD captures Amos on the final night of the Scarlet’s Walk tour in 2003, performing in the trio format (Matt Chamberlain on drums and Jon Evans on bass) that rocks hard while giving the music plenty of space for nuance. Lovingly directed by Loren Haynes, highlights of the performance include a tough “Sugar", a buoyant “Take to the Sky” and a dynamic “Tombigbee". As a bonus, the DVD includes a pair of funny, touching interviews with Amos and her mother, Mary. The two bootleg collections showcase the other two incarnations of Amos live. The Original Bootlegs series draws performances from Amos’s solo tour in support of The Beekeeper; notable for their intimacy, the shows found Amos sating her '80s jones in the Piano Bar sections, with memorable covers of everyone from Madonna to Bonnie Tyler, George Michael to A Flock of Seagulls. Legs and Boots (a digital only release) offers 27 performances from the North American leg of the American Doll Posse tour, capturing Amos at vigorous, full-band throttle.

Courtesy of A Piano distributors Rhino, Fade to Red is a nicely presented package of Amos’s videos from Little Earthquakes to The Beekeeper. The best of the videos collected here are at either end of the budgetary scale: Cindy Palmano’s timelessly elegant small-scale productions for the Little Earthquakes singles (necessarily minimalist but fully alert to the nuances of the music) and James Brown’s elaborate accompaniments to the from the choirgirl hotel singles, particularly the extraordinary pursuit-through-the-woods in “Spark". Diffuse audio commentaries from Amos give insights into the filming and production of each video.

Also indispensable: the Live At Montreux CD/DVD which features two important early, but markedly different, appearances from Amos at the Jazz festival.

Click here and here for previous PopMatters coverage of Tori’s live show.

2007

2009

 

READING MATERIAL

Comic Book Tattoo (2008)

Art begets art begets art on this mutha of an anthology. Like Piece by Piece, Comic Book Tattoo surpassed expectations. Edited by Rantz Hoseley (dedicatee of “Flying Dutchman,” from whence the collection draws its title) and with an affectionate intro by Neil Gaiman, this massive book of narrative art inspired by 51 Amos songs is a stunning achievement. Faithful to the Amos rubric (“no comic cover versions”), the collection features work from artists and writers both established and new, and its stylistic scope is as broad as that of the music that inspired it. Though quality control is pretty much sustained throughout, the most exciting of the pieces are those that use motifs from the music as a jumping-off place for fresh ideas. Check out Kako’s impressionistic “Marianne,” C.B Cebulski and Ethan Young’s sexy “Teenage Hustling,” Irma Page and Martin Buckingham’s adorable “Snow Cherries From France,” Dame Darcy’s cheeky “Pandora’s Aquarium,” Derek McCulloch and Colleen Doran’s dense “Pretty Good Year,” and Hoseley’s wild phantasmagoria, “Mr. Zebra.” And that’s just for starters … An abundance of riches indeed, Comic Book Tattoo is indispensable for Amos fans and comic book aficionados alike, a prime slice of what Amos in her Afterward terms “mental mischief.”

Piece by Piece [with Ann Powers] (2005)

The writing of Piece by Piece may have distracted Amos from fine-tuning The Beekeeper, but the end result was superb: an absorbing, unique work that deftly avoided the usual conventions and clichés of the rock star biog. In collaboration with noted music journalist Ann Powers, Amos developed eight dense and lively chapters that explored her family history, motherhood, public image and the touring life, placing her experiences within the wider frameworks of myth, religion and history. Particularly fascinating is Amos’s account of her creative process, at once mystical and intensely practical - and extremely inspiring. Augmented with “song canvases” and the perspectives of members of Amos’s crew (musicians, manager, husband, chef and security guard among them) Piece by Piece is a bracingly multi-vocal and wide-ranging work.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

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-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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