Straddled, she sits, her legs clad in shimmying silver tights atop killer black heels.
Aflame, her hair long, unnervingly straight, a cloak behind which to hide her pale, unassuming face.
Now we get a lot of oddballs in Hammersmith – it’s not uncommon to see the full spectrum of society waiting for a bus outside HMV so a slightly disturbed 40-something muttering the word ‘motherfucker’ over and over under her breath is just rite of passage round here.
Difference is, hundreds of people have paid to see this one – and not just in London – all over the UK. We are, of course, talking about Tori Amos. The feisty fireball from North Carolina came and delivered to a packed audience at the legendary Apollo arena last Thursday (10 September).
When I arrived, I was late. I had to climb over legs to find my seat and Amos was already in full swing (damn, missed Cornflake Girl). It took only moments for me to realise what I was witnessing. There she was, legs akimbo in a cage of keyboards, belting out a song I hadn’t heard in years, but had stayed dormant in my psyche.
It was my first Tori live experience and I was stunned – the voice was so powerful, the stage presence even more so, considering it was just her alone with two guys in the dark far corners facing out to the eager crowd.
Tori Amos isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. She wails. She says some odd things. Her melodies are often hidden beneath layers of complex piano playing and wolf-like howls.
Yet her talent is undeniable. That night, it came and smacked me in the face with the full force that Amos has always intended it to. Her music isn’t forgiving – it’s not meant for the faint-hearted, or those who wish to have their music presented in a simplistic three-minute format – an intro, verses, chorus, more verses, chorus, bridge, chorus, bridge – throw in a key change for dramatic effect, if you will.
No, instead there are lyrics so undiscernable that even Alan Turing would have a problem deciphering them. Listen closely and there’s poetry in every line; a feeling conjured up, a place, a memory.
But I can’t attempt to write a review without coming back to the very core of her performance – the piano. It was staggering to see a modern musician so competent at music in a world where we are often so used to having just a charismatic front person who may hold a guitar in the odd song.
Watching someone play the piano isn’t typically a visual treat. It’s grounding and unsociable when a big crowd is watching. Yet Amos delivered each song from between her pianos with such vibrancy, such energy, such passion, that the keys and their sound became all we could think about. She was captivating as she writhed, sexually, over her stool, kicking her heels and occasionally coyly looking out from behind the wall of ginger at the adoring faces before her.
The applause was raptorous, the songs unforgettable and the lady – who is a rare reminder of a musician that has refused to sell out to commerciality despite tens of albums – is not for turning. For fans expecting to see the voice that they had listened to in their bedrooms for years, this was Tori Amos at her purest. Long may those Little Earthquakes in the world of modern music continue… it was a motherfuckin pleasure.