Persona differs, but voice is all Tori Amos

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
November 29, 2002

Tori Amos has one of those ethereal voices that can make even the mundane sound compelling. Whether she’s performing her breakthrough hit, “Silent All These Years,” or tackling Eminem’s misogynist ” ’97 Bonnie & Clyde” from the woman’s point of view, Amos conveys emotions that reach the listener’s soul.

Wednesday night, at the first show of her two-night stand at the Chicago Theatre–which concludes tonight–Amos casually made up a songs about Thanksgiving and a woman in the audience who was having trouble finding her seat. The thing is, even though the irony in her voice reflected that the subjects were funny and light, the “songs” still were gorgeous.

For this tour, Amos takes on the persona of Scarlet, the central character that runs throughout her latest album, “Scarlet’s Walk.” Her flaming red hair tossed back and her jeans-clad legs flailing impatiently, she didn’t play her piano as much as she beckoned it to do as she pleased. At times, she conveyed the sorrow of her music by becoming as listless as a ragdoll. More often than not, though, she projected the strength and power of the woman she has become.

Her theme shows work better than you’d think, because Amos has one of pop music’s most mesmerizing voices. It draws you in, almost rendering the material irrelevant. Last year at the Arie Crown Theatre, she performed unaccompanied, covering songs by artists such as the Beatles, Neil Young and Eminem. In the end, she made them her own.

So while the “Roadside Cafe” sign that appeared onstage about 30 minutes into her set Wednesday was on the hokey side, it didn’t matter. The stories she chose to tell were the only things that mattered.

With “Amber Waves,” she tells the story of a young woman who went from ballet classes, to lap dances, to porn. (Amber Waves, you may recall, also was a character in “Boogie Nights.”) “A Sorta Fairytale” follows a woman’s journey with someone she believed to be the perfect man. When reality sets in, it doesn’t measure up to the fantasy they had created for themselves.

Amos was accompanied by bassist Jon Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain, and the trio created a rich, fleshed-out sound that belied the spare lineup.

When it was all over, you left with a sense that Scarlet had reached her destination and was about to embark on a new journey.

Amos fans should be so lucky.

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