NOTE: This item is IDENTICAL to "Tori Amos: Live from the Artists Den", but of course computers are idiots, and can not tell when a single item has been entered in two slightly different fashions. This is a copy of my review for the "other" DVD.
For almost two decades, I would occasionally hear a song by Tori Amos on the radio, or on TV, and say to myself, "Wow! That's an interesting song. I ought to check her out." Then, of course, I never got around to it. When PBS finally handed her to me on a silver platter, by televising this concert (most of it) on their Live From the Artists Den series, I made a point of recording and watching the show. Then watching it again. And again. Then going on line to get the lyrics, which are crucial but occasionally hard to understand, because Tori sometimes alters the sound of words for musical effect. Then finally taking the plunge, buying all 11 studio albums and about a dozen CD singles, followed by four DVD sets and four books. Rarely if ever has a singer/songwriter had such a profound impact on me.
If you are not familiar with Tori Amos, this solo concert offers an excellent entry into her world. There are twelve songs from seven of her albums, covering her entire career, including two which were not part of the PBS telecast, as well as an extended interview and a souvenir booklet. It is regrettable that the DVD is neither subtitled nor captioned, so I recommend getting the lyrics on line; neither of Tori's two websites has a complete list, but there are many other helpful sites, for instance AZLyrics. The song selection does favor the gentler, more introspective side of her output, and there is a more angry, raw, confrontational side to her which is not conveyed in this concert; on the other hand, that does make this DVD less likely to put people off. Don't worry if you don't "get" all the songs; she tends to describe, not the specific events in her life which created a song, but the images those events evoke for her, the things those events remind her of. It's like listening to the Oracle at Delphi: you won't understand every word, but you will know, with certainty, that every word is true.
For Tori aficionados, this concert is essential for a different reason. In her studio albums and on many of her live recordings, she performs with backup instruments; this makes the rhythms and dynamics relatively inflexible, in order for everyone to stay together. In this solo concert, however - just her, accompanying herself on Bosendorfer piano and on synthesizer, sometimes both at once - she has much greater control over phrasing and mood, and the songs become more sensuous, more haunting. I actually like these "black and white" versions of the songs much better than the album versions, for the same reason that I like Ansel Adams' B&W photographs - BECAUSE of the lack of instrumental color, not in spite of it; I think this presentation brings out things in the music and the lyrics which are obscured in the (more commercial) album versions. It would actually be very interesting to hear how this kind of performance affected some of her edgier songs; there may be facets to them which we have never heard.
Tori Amos is one of the most personal, creative poet/songwriters around. I always wondered what I would find if I explored her music. Now, thanks to this concert, I know.