Concert Reviews

Last Night: Tori Amos at the Paramount

Tori Amos and eskimO
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Paramount Theatre
Better Than:
The last time I saw Tori Amos at Red Rocks in 1998.

London-based One eskimO opened the show, and at first, I was concerned it might be one of those bands favored by modern rock stations that border on the adult contemporary format. What saved eskimO, though, was singer Kristian Leontiou who seemed truly caught up in the music and the tribal percussion the band employed throughout each song. As the set progressed, the group reminded me of Peter Gabriel because it used textures and melodies in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways within a pop context. Although there was sort of a subdued and shadowy sound to this quarter's songs, there was also an understated intensity that was fairly compelling.

From as early as Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos has been a unique performer. Like Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson, calling Amos a singer-songwriter seems somehow inadequate and inaccurate because she pushes artistic boundaries and doesn't try to play things safe. For this performance, Amos was preceded to the stage by long time band mates Jon Evans and Matt Chamberlain who started into "Give." When Amos walked to her piano and keyboards she was dressed in an emerald green and gold outfit that made her look like a pagan priestess or a character out of a Lord Dunsany story.  During "Caught a Lite Sneeze" it was obvious that the woman who has written some of the most heart wrenching music of the last twenty years was not just in high spirits but having some fun with the music.

At times Amos would straddle her bench and play the piano with one hand and a keyboard or organ with the other. The lighting for the show was superb and clearly informed by someone familiar with color theory. The most interesting part of the show came when the P.A. died a few bars into "Leather." Instead of throwing a fit and stopping the show, Amos continued and the audience made up for the P.A. by singing along correctly without missing a lyric. Amos encouraged this from the crowd even after the P.A. came back on toward the end of the song. It seemed like a special moment even for someone like me who didn't know the lyrics at all. Performance-wise, and musically, the high point came with "Little Earthquakes" as Amos shook with an unexpected intensity from the emotional weight of the song, as though she were reliving it's harrowing subject matter.

The main set closed with the seething "Strong Black Vine" but Amos and company came back for a three-song encore including a cover of Elton John's "Daniel" and closing with "Big Wheel." From beginning to end, Tori earned and even increased my respect for her as an artist and as a performer.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias:
I've been a Tori Amos fan since first hearing her in 1992.
Random Detail: Amos played a Bösendorfer grand piano.
By the Way: This was an all-ages show that ended at the right time proving Tori actually cares about her younger fans.

Set List
1. Give
2. Caught a Lite Sneeze
3. Cornflake Girl
4. Flavor
5. Space Dog
6. Liquid Diamonds
7. Carbon
8. Icicle
9. Siren
10. Leather
11. Never Seen Blue
12. Daniel
13. Doughnut Song
14. Little Earthquakes
15. Fast Horse
16. Precious Things
17. Strong Black Vine

18. Raspberry Swirl
19. Body and Soul
20. Big Wheel

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.