Under The Pink (Atlantic)
by Paul Lee
Tori Amos has created waves in contemporary music with both her latest release, Under the Pink, and previously with Little Earthquakes. She’s a talented and gifted singer, pianist, and songwriter who uses her wit and wisdom to both entertain and shock her audience. Talk about hard music to label, Tori’s sound is a blend of progressive, jazz, Gershwin, piano-bar, and good old fashioned rock n’ roll.
Tori and her unmistakable sound were once thought to be too odd and quirky for the mainstream. Though Atlantic seemed to be fully behind her, it seemed unlikely that Tori would break her eclectic boundaries. Little Earthquakes sold respectably and earned her many fans. Along comes Under the Pink, an album of equality and excitement as Little Earthquakes and suddenly, Tori was knocking down the walls of mainstream with her piano power and snatching new fans left and right. You can hardly step into a music store without seeing her face adorning some magazine or ten-foot high poster.
If you haven’t come into contact with Tori’s music, you’re in for a real treat if you dig sultry vocals, virtuoso piano playing (she started at two), and personal, witty lyrics that are at times funny, depressing, or cynical.
I recently had a chance to meet Tori at a small press conference and see her perform at Harvard University’s Sander’s Theater (which was more a church chapel than a concert hall). I will admit to already being captivated by Little Earthquakes and having seen her live two years ago. (This coming from a guy who thinks Pantera and Anthrax are the shows to experience.)
It’s a funny thing to see Tori live. She makes you feel like you’re in her living room. The living room this time around probably sat 1000 people. Though she has other instruments on her albums, Tori opts for solo piano performances on tour. Opening with her first U.S. hit, “Crucify,” Tori let her passions loose and could barely keep her body anchored to the piano bench. If she could have picked the piano up and danced around with it, I feel certain she would have. From there, Tori’s smiling visage took us into her odd musical world, playing songs like “Winter,” “Happy Phantom,” and “China.”
The most chilling part of the night occurred when Tori did her acapella song, “Me and a Gun,” giving a lyrical account of being raped. I squirmed in my seat and felt the incredible hush in Sanders as the tension and sadness vibrated throughout. This was a true testament to Tori’s influence and honesty. From Under the Pink, Tori continued to interweave her funny anecdotes and stories of her life with songs like “Pretty Good Year,” “Cornflake Girl,” and “The Waitress.” Telling a tale of pre-pubescence, Tori recounted a story of hearing her father reciting a passage from the bible while she listened to Led Zeppelin and played with herself. She then casually started the song “Icicle,” putting a melody to just that story. She also played her single, “God,” and asked us, “Please bear with me on this one.” A tape played the accompaniment as she played and sang. It didn’t seem natural for her because she couldn’t deviate the least bit from the timing.
If you’ve never seen her live, waste no time. There is no one, nor will there ever be anyone quite like this sultry siren.