Beth and I went to see Tori Amos live at the Beacon Theatre last Tuesday. We’ve seen her perform a few times, but not in some years. This tour is in support of her new album, Native Invader, which I’ve heard a few times and can’t say it’s really grabbed me. That’s not to say it’s bad; there’s generally something I find sublime about the sound of her songs even when I’m not sure what they’re about. Thematically, it’s largely about the struggle between nature and humanity, with the typical mix of folkloric references with more modern concerns. I think there’s a certain sameness to the songs on this album, though; she usually provides a little more variety, and the occasional catchy ditty to provide a break from the heavy stuff. “Cloud Riders” has a good arrangement, alternating between Tori on two different vocal tracks and incorporating a good organ part. I wonder if the chariot drawn by cats in the lyrics is a reference to Freyja. “Up the Creek,” the only song on this album to have vocals by Tori’s daughter Natashya, has a very urgent sound and is based around one of Tori’s Cherokee grandfather’s favorite sayings. Beth mentioned “Bang” as one that stood out for her; it references the old saw about how people are made of star-stuff, and mentions several elements. Oddly, this is the only one aside from the bonus track that doesn’t have its lyrics in the accompanying booklet. “Climb” refers to St. Veronica, who is said to have given her veil to Jesus so he could wipe his face. “Bats” and “Benjamin” both identify a bat as a keeper of esoteric knowledge, and the latter mentions Juliana v. United States, a federal lawsuit over climate change that’s led to the fossil fuel industry bullying children. “Mary’s Eyes” is a response to Tori’s mother’s stroke, and how she could only communicate with her eyes afterwards.
The opener at the concert was a British band called Scars on 45, and I’m sorry, but I really can’t recommend them. It seems like Tori has a habit of getting openers who are just kind of dull. On the other hand, I’ve also seen Ben Folds and the Ditty Bops open for her. I haven’t heard anything about the Ditty Bops in some time, by the way. I guess they’re not performing as a band anymore? Anyway, Tori’s performance had her singing and playing piano and organ, sometimes at the same time. Strangely, out of seventeen songs, there were only two from the latest album, “Breakaway” and “Reindeer King” in the set. On the other hand, she played three songs each from From the Choirgirl Hotel and Scarlet’s Walk. I’m not sure musicians think so much in terms of what albums songs are on, especially since that doesn’t necessarily reflect when they wrote or first started playing those songs. The segment when she played covers, a pretty standard part of her shows, was called the Fake Muse Network, with a parody of the Fox News logo. One of the covers was Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia,” which I’ve heard her play before. Honestly, I didn’t even like the original song that much, but whatever. My favorite song in the set might have been “Bliss.” I felt that the audience as a whole came off as a bit immature, as they collectively cheered loudly every time she used a curse word or innuendo, of which there was a lot in “Icicle.” It was still a fun night, if rather tiring considering it ended not long before 11 on a weeknight.
I don’t go to as many concerts now as I used to, but I am seeing Robyn Hitchcock in about a week. I also have a few other albums to review, although it seems to be getting more difficult for me to write about music. Still, I should have a bit to say about the latest albums by Amanda Palmer and St. Vincent, among others, so stayed tuned.