Just before Christmas I won free tickets yet again to a show, this time it was Tori Amos on the final night of her tour. Both my wife and I were excited; we were both huge fans of her throughout the 90s, and have liked songs here and there from her more recent output. It was our first time seeing her in concert because when we were living in towns where she played in the past we never had the funds to buy tickets, or twitter to win them.
The opening act was a man and his guitar. I sadly identify him that way as he was not listed on the bill nor did he introduce himself. Instead, he walked on stage, sat in a chair with a microphone in front of him and sang while looking at the floor. He apologized once for something but otherwise there was no interaction or acknowledgement of the crowd. It was not an opening set to get anyone excited, and by the end the steady rumble of conversation was nearly drowning him out. He wasn’t bad at all, but wrong venue and wrong bill.
On this tour, Tori was playing her piano accompanied by a string quartet. For the most part it worked well; for example, opener “Shattering Sea” was quite amazing. She mixed in some solo piano sections as well (“Happy Phantom” and “Garlands” stood out for me), but all was not rosy.
While Tori was in amazing voice and her playing was immaculate with great phrasing and swing, the string quartet was solid if unexceptional. I’m not sure they added much to the overall package, and to be honest when they stepped back or offstage and let her play solo the concert got better. She seemed constrained by the arrangements and free to improvise and play with her work when alone.
However, it was neither Tori nor the quartet that lead to my wife and I leaving an hour into her set; it was her fans. I know that she has an avid, rabid set of followers, but I didn’t know how many of them were rude and condescending or oblivious to all around them. This was not a party atmosphere like the Heads Of State tour, but you’d never know from the drunken singing and falling over that was occurring all around us. “Hey Jupiter” is not a song I would have thought would have got people standing in their seats, alternating between singing at the top of their lungs and squealing like 12 year olds. I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I hate to say that we were not the only people leaving long before it ended.
So, like the photo above, I’m of two minds. Tori herself was amazing, a better, more talented performer than I imagined. If she does a solo tour and plays in venues where the crowd might care to listen to her instead of yell and scream I’d love to see her again. Sadly, the rabidity of her fans will probably mean that never happens.