Monday, September 8, 2014

Tori Amos at The Fillmore Miami August 24, 2014

I learned a lot about what it means to be a woman from Tori Amos. I'm pretty sure the first thing I ever heard from her was "Crucify" on the University of Miami radio station, WVUM. I immediately went out and bought whatever she had out, which just her first album, Little Earthquakes and the Crucify EP. So I can safely say I was there from the start, though it would be several years before I saw her live. One of the many things that bonded my wife and I when we met was that we were both big fans. And it's with her that I've seen Tori live about 6 times now over the years. The last time we saw was over 10 years ago, during her Beekeeper Tour. Until about 2 weeks ago, when we saw her on the last date of her North American tour supporting her latest album, Unrepentant Geraldines.

Right off, the first thing that hit me when showing up to The Fillmore in Miami Beach, was that there were no strange little girls in faerie wings running around, squealing as in the past. There were no outcast boys, some slightly feminine, some just open, some quiet. There was instead, what I assume were those same kids who found comfort and acceptance in Tori's music and each other, grown up, well adjusted, mature and seemingly secure in the identities they were able to develop, thanks, in no small part, to the fandom they had been a part of this many years. A fandom that can be intense, weird (whatever that even means in this context), loyal, completist and caring.

There's a reason I hadn't seen Tori in 10 years, though. The Beekeeper was not an album I was all that crazy about. In my mind, she peaked musically with the previous album, Scarlet's Walk, which I can safely say is my favorite, by far, even though I still love her previous efforts. Her latest album has gotten much praise and there are good songs on it, as there were on Beekeeper, but overall, I still draw a line post Scarlet as being a different Tori. And that's fine, I expect change and it should happen. In any case, live can always be something different and I came because it had been a long time.

For the most part, it was what I expected. It was just her and a piano. In the past, I've seen her with a full band, a couple of supporters and alone, and I have to say, I think I prefer her with some support. I think her songs are much more complex than a simple piano can deliver in the way she seems to prefer. I'm not a fan of too much reliance on sequencing, which happened several times. Highlights for me included a surprise song, "Leather," "Don't Make Me Come to Vegas," and of course "Winter," which now always makes me think of my daughters. The Lizard Lounge section, in which Tori does a couple of covers requested by fans was a little underwhelming. The song choices, Massive Attack's "Tear Drop" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" were fine, but the choice to go with a drum machine and sequencer seemed to defeat the purpose of having her cover those songs. I expected to hear her strip them down and deconstruct them. Give them new meaning. Make them hers. Instead, it felt like vague karaoke, a feeling I got again at the end when she played "Cornflake Girl" over the actual album track.

So overall, this was not the best Tori concert I've seen. I'd have to say, it was the weakest. Still, it was good to see her and it has made me listen to her albums once again, in a new light. But the show did leave me with a sense that she was sort of "getting back into it." As if she was just seeing what she can do at 50 years old and that maybe the next thing will be a whole new ball game for her. We'll see.

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