Tori Amos in Glasgow: an intimate & stripped-back affair

6th October

O2 Academy, Glasgow

Tori Amos’ gig in Glasgow seals the European leg of the tour promoting her fifteenth album Native Invader, released one month ago. The American vocalist admits herself that “Everyone backstage is in tears because it’s been the best tour,” and then screams out enthusiastically, “Glasgow, wow! I’m coming home mama!”, making a reference to her current place of residence – Cornwall.  These are some of the few words she directs to the audience that consists of truly dedicated old-school fans on one hand and quite random listeners on the other – some of the latter decide to leave the venue before a fierce and electrifying encore. However, a spare style of verbal communication with the audience shouldn’t necessarily be a weakness of this show. On the contrary, Amos is fully drowned in her music, so it feels natural that she doesn’t want to interrupt the magical ambiance created by her voice, the colourful yet subtle lights, and a huge picture of a mysterious forest in the background. Indeed, she herself looks like a fairy who ran away from the enchanted forest straight to the O2 Academy.

The Glasgow show proves that Amos is a true, authentic artist in every possible way. Not only does she enrapture with her technical singing abilities, emotional, sometimes dramatic interpretations and vibrant, confident voice. Also, she seems to be capable of making any sound – she whispers, yells, hisses, howls, groans and cries. Moreover, she is a fully self-sufficient artist. She doesn’t need any band or extra help. The performance is only about her and her pianos – the grand piano and the double electronic keyboard. She is perched between them and seems to physically merge with her instruments as if they became one organism. Not only does she play them but also sometimes touches them gently or on the contrary, spanks them sharply. This is why her relationship with music is so credible and authentic – it feels bodily and organic. It accentuates the physical, sexual nature of her music and lyrics. In a magical, bizarre way, Tori almost becomes the music herself and still manages to keep eye contact with her listeners and smile at them. Hence, in spite of quite a big venue, the gig is still really intimate and personal.

As mentioned above, the tour promotes the new album, though only in theory, because ‘The Reindeer King’ is the only song from Native Invader on the setlist. The gig seems to be a bow towards Tori’s faithful listeners after all that she has already accomplished – over 30 years on stage, 15 albums and one musical. At the beginning, she promises that she will try to do some song requests on the occasion of the tour’s ending. The setlist is comprised of songs from different eras and albums, mostly from the 90s and early 00s. Also, throughout the tour, Tori sings covers of her favourite songs and artists in the so-called Fake Muse Network section – in Glasgow, she performs ‘Here Comes the Rain Again’ by Eurythmics and ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ by Leonard Cohen. The greatest surprise is probably ‘Etienne’ – a song from the first and simultaneously the last album of the band Y Kant Tori Read, Tori’s debut in 80s. Glasgow must be a purposely chosen place to perform this song and indeed, the first lines “Maybe I’m a witch, lost in time, running through the fields of Scotland,” evoke unfeigned enthusiasm and spontaneous applause among the Scottish audience.  Hence, the show is like a fulfilled dream for the old-school fans and on the other hand, it may be a slightly boring, too-consistent set of challenging – both lyrically and musically –  ballads, for the random people who come around accidentally. The unvarying structure of the setlist and lack of hits such as ‘Crucify’, ‘Cornflake Girl’ or a famous cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ probably make them leave in the middle of the concert.

Interestingly, it can be seen both as a weakness and a virtue. Neither Tori’s shows nor her songs could probably grip the listeners for whom music equals pretty, simple, unchallenging singles. However, the question is, does Tori Amos really want such people to come to her intimate concerts? In the age of huge shows, flickering visualisations, crazy choreographies, confetti, fireworks and other frills, she is an astonishing exception who doesn’t need more than her voice and her piano(s). If you care about the show, then you shouldn’t really see her live because she isn’t a showwomman. Moreover, she doesn’t aspire to be one. Instead, she chooses to be an artist.

Image: Shicrbs, Wikimedia CC

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