Concert review: Backup band not a good fit for piano goddess Tori Amos

   Jim Meyer
   Even rock goddess Tori Amos had to admit she was not the biggest rock
   show in town Friday night. But she delivered an interesting departure
   to a sold-out crowd at Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis.
   The mostly college-age and younger fans again seemed to be in their
   own world of rapt attention for the inspirational and mysterious
   poetess of the piano. Most sat motionless in their seats until the
   encore, even though Amos was accompanied, for the first time, by a
   three-piece band.
   Maybe the sedate reaction was just a natural result of the leavening
   effect this backing group seems to have on Amos' music. For the first
   portion, the trio seemed to dim her light, especially in contrast to
   Amos' sparkling solo show at Northrop in 1996, when there was more
   acoustic space for her prickly piano melodies and her gentle yet
   haunting voice to work its many wonders.
   On Friday, she seemed a little lost in her own sound. Amos doesn't
   share the spotlight well, and her band hasn't quite been given much
   room to make much of new interest.
   Of course, most fans have memorized her twisted lyrics backward and
   forward, but for objective listeners, her soaring but thin soprano
   seemed swept away by the constant bass tone and the crashing of
   cymbals on the opening "Precious Things," "Spark" and "Cornflake
   Girl," in which the smooth grooves seemed to just go on longer than
   their impact demanded. The rarity "Sugar" held up well, but newer
   songs such as "Iieee" and "Playboy Momma" have turned from engagingly
   mysterious to flatly vague.
   Even on "Crucify," the vocal beauty was lost in the ho-hum rumble,
   Amos' passion seemed flat.
   The power of her solo set was brought to mind during a two-song piano
   interlude of "Marianne" and "Upside Down." The latter especially
   proved that one cool piano chord and a strong lyric has the power of
   three men.
   After a gentle ensemble version of "Doughnut Song," the band redeemed
   itself on "Cruel," which borrowed tone and intensity from "Kashmir"
   Led Zeppelin, one of Amos' favorites. The band created cold chills on
   the eerie self-examination, "The Waitress," to close the main
   The band encored with techno-rave renditions of "God" and "Raspberry
   Swirl," and Amos closed with a solo version of Fleetwood Mac's
   "Changes." Friday night, Amos' musical changes had their moments.
   -- Jim Meyer is senior editor for Request magazine.

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