Tori Amos

Tori Amos

The Chili Pepper, Ft. Lauderdale • 4.18.98

As a Geek who Tries Too Hard, Tori is a staple in my life. I own her B-sides and remixes and rare shit. I get chills up my spine and cry every time I watch her MTV Unplugged, which is about once every three weeks. I even own a bad cassette copy of Y Kant Tori Read, for God’s sakes.

I do not, however, carry around my neck, held together by shoelaces, a slab of cardboard where I meticulously write down every song she plays at every concert I’ve ever seen her at, like the obvious chronic standing in front of me was.

This is Tori’s crowd? I thought I was Tori’s crowd. But you’re always the only one that the music affects, right? Don’t lie to me. You’re selfish and insolent, and when you go see your All Time Favorite Band, you are the only person alive, aren’t you? Jane’s Addiction is YOUR band. Ani DiFranco talks to You and You alone. And no one ever “understands,” do they?

But that’s what makes great music. “It speaks for your soul.” My friend Dave told me that after he finally got tired of me giving him shit for listening to Pantera all the time. After that, I never said another word about it.

I think half the fun of going to a show is to look around and see what kind of company you’re in. Who else out there digs this stuff? Whose lives have been inexorably altered by this band? Who is Tori cathartic to besides me, oddball wacko that I am?

I can safely say that I’ve been privileged to see a lot of shows in my life. Many sucked. A few were flat out unforgettable: the Pixies, two days before they broke up. Nirvana, godbless ’em. M’Shell N’degeO’cello. Fugazi, offering refunds to people who didn’t enjoy the show. Bad Religion, when the skinheads got garbage cans tossed on their heads. Ice-T and Body Count at the height of Fuck the Police mania. Sting, losing his voice mid-show, sends the band home and sits onstage with an acoustic guitar and Branford Marsalis and lets the audience sing old Police songs. The Bosstones, all four times. Soul Coughing, in a parking lot, collossally stoned, with 100 people; 30 of whom I knew and the other 70 I just had to meet.

As for Tori? It’s safe for me to say that her Chili Pepper show, a preview show for her upcoming tour, ranked among one of the best I’d ever seen or heard. The experience was pretty damn close to seeing Elton in a 3,000 seat theatre, but still not quite as life-altering as finding God at Pearl Jam. (I did. Swear. First and probably last time ever.)

I’d never seen a Tori show before, and after Saturday, I had the dread (yet cool) feeling that if I’m not married or holding gainful employment by the time I’m 40 I’ll end up like that chick with the cardboard around her neck, following Tori everywhere. This was the first time anyone had ever heard Tori play live with a full band, and if this show was any indication, in ten years this woman will be playing stadiums. She’s Billy Joel for the brilliant and tormented. And at least 1m500 of us were congregated in one place that Saturday night, and if you struck up a decent conversation with any one of them, the chances were pretty damn good that you’d end up somewhere obscure at 4:30 in the morning spilling your mutual guts about the crap that’s been dragging you down since you were twelve.

Most of the hour and a half-plus show consisted of new material from the album, songs from the choirgirl, but the most memorable moments came from her familiar shit: “Horses” (a new version, incredibly, ten times superior than the one on Boys for Pele), “The Waitress,” and “Winter,” where in the middle of a delicate moment she forgot the words. Like an eerie chorus, we all started singing the song for her.

Sure I cried. Sure I held hands with my girlfriends who accompanied me both in (very slinky) wardrobe and spirit that evening. Sure, the show moved me. I expected it and I got it. That’s what Tori Amos does. Her music speaks for your soul; by banging out all her dark, twisted bullshit on that Boesndorfer in a voice halfway between a whisper and an aria, she forces you to acknowledge your dark, twisted bullshit and to feel what it means to love and to hate and you know what, its time to get it all out of you in one big, cosmic, release.

At least, that’s what listening to Tori Amos does for me.

As I was walking out of the Chili Pepper, I made my way through the hundred or so fans who were still outside, hoping Tori would come out and greet them personally, as I’ve heard she will often do. A girl, about 12, caught my eye — chubby, stringy haired, with glasses. She had sewn to her striped T-shirt two hand-made, gold lame wire butterfly wings about two feet in diameter. Someone who looked like her mother stood by her, wanting desperately to get the hell out of there, but this girl wasn’t budging until she got tell Tori about how the other girls at school tease her and hurt her because she isn’t as pretty as they are and thinks she’s fat and doesn’t have a boyfriend even though she’s only twelve and how she spends a lot of time alone reading and dreaming, and listening to her music helps her get through every day of her life.

She reminded me so much of myself.

I made sure to tell that girl that she looked beautiful.

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