Tori Amos at the Arie Crown Theatre

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
October 24, 2001

The stage is dark and a haunting voice wafts through the theater. Tori Amos is backstage, whispering a tale of rage and murder. The victim in her song is desperate and full of despair. Her boyfriend is killing her, and their daughter later unknowingly helps him dispose of her body.

Sound familiar? Multiplatinum rapper Eminem wrote this song for his debut album. But when Amos sings “’97 Bonnie & Clyde,” the material is heard from a dying woman’s point of view: “No more fighting with dad/No more restraining order,” she hears him say. “Momma’s in the trunk.”

The chilling song sends shivers down listeners’ spines. It refutes Eminem’s rationalization that the song is just a song and doesn’t condone violence against women. From her unique perspective, Amos shows how powerful words can be.

There is a hush before the audience breaks out into a roaring ovation. With that opening number Tuesday night at the Arie Crown, Amos had the sold-out crowd enraptured.

In her first tour without a backup band since 1994, Amos at the keyboards proved a great voice doesn’t need embellishment.         Some of her best material was done a cappella. For “Me and a Gun,” Amos curled up at centerstage and sang the song, in which she recalls being raped. The song doesn’t depict her as a victim, but as a survivor who did nothing wrong to incite the act: “Yes, I wore a slinky red thing/Does that mean I should spread for you?”

One of pop’s most boldly original artists, Amos made an unexpected career move releasing an album of covers for her latest release, “Strange Little Girls.” The disc features the Eminem song, as well as Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” the Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and the Stranglers’ “Strange Little Girl.” But the album’s title doesn’t refer to that tune. Amos has always referred to her songs as her “little girls.” These songs are others’ “strange little girls.”

Onstage, Amos was an earth mother and a diva. She was a friend and an icon. When she plays her piano, she exudes the same type of sexuality that Keith Richards used to when he stroked his guitar.

But it is her flawless, pristine voice that captivates and draws you into the stories she unfolds.

In his half-hour opening set, Rufus Wainwright gave the perfect preamble to the Amos concert. Glib and goofy when he talked, his beautifully melancholy voice mesmerized.

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