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A Strange Little Girl In Nebraska: Tori Amos At Omaha's Orpheum Theatre

by Sean McCarthy

For more than a decade, Tori Amos has made some of the most intimate recordings in mainstream music. Consequently, her live shows strongly reflect the intimacy in her recordings. Most Amos neophytes know when to shut the hell up when the lights go down at a show. As intimate as a Tori Amos show can be, she keeps interaction with the crowd to a minimum, opting to let the songs speak for themselves.

Before a sellout crowd of about 2,000 at the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha, Nebraska, Amos let her songs do the talking for a mesmerizing two hours. Wearing a burgundy and pale cream quilted dress, Amos showed little sign of fatigue from extensive touring promoting her latest CD, Scarlet's Walk.

Rhett Miller, the energetic lead singer of Old 97s, worked the crowd up with a brief, all-acoustic set. Jumping up and down and occasionally thrashing away at his acoustic guitar, Miller acted like he might have holed up at coffee shop next to the performing venue and loaded up on espresso shots a few hours before the show. Miller's themes for his songs typically revolve around love, be it gaining it or losing it. He also had some humorous comments about the hype surrounding the Omaha music scene. His strong songwriting ability make him a great choice for an opening act. For some younger fans in the audience, Miller's exuberant grin was enough to win over a crowd hungering for Amos. toriamos_1_296

Amos' traveling band is worth the price of admission. Matt Chamberlain, who handled percussion on Tori's most recent albums and Fiona Apple's …When the Pawn, once again proved why he is one of the most sought-after percussionists out there. And bassist Jon Evans provided a subtle presence, supplying a funky rhythm in some of Amos' more jamming numbers. The two are as seasoned of a rhythm section as you are likely to see. They were even able to throw off die-hard fans a bit when they turned the Amos staple "Crucify" into an extended jam session before Amos hit the familiar notes for the song.

When the band left midway through her set, Amos performed a devastating cover of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush." It was as close to a political statement as you were going to hear that night, but the chorus of sniffles around me suggested it carried all the raw power and more of an Academy Award acceptance speech by Michael Moore.

While this performance focused heavily on Scarlet's Walk, Amos incorporated a liberal sampling of songs from all of her albums, with the exception of Strange Little Girls. Her first encore was a slightly odd choice: "Horses," a very-subdued number from Boys For Pele. Amos has always been able to add more depth to her songs in a live environment, and this show was no different. Some songs that seemed too pedestrian on Scarlet's Walk were greatly improved upon hearing them in a live setting.

For her final encore, Amos did an enchanting version of "Space Dog." She closed the set with "Hey Jupiter," an amazing choice, given that she was on stage for more than two hours, and that song is one of the most vocally demanding songs in her arsenal.

The intensity of show was magnified by the concert environment -- it seemed that the heat was turned up a bit higher than it needed to be at the Orpheum. Still, this is the fifth time I have seen Tori and I have never heard her sound as good as she did on this tour. Opting to spend almost two hours on stage apparently proves that she still is enjoying what she is doing. Judging by the standing ovation she received, it looks like Amos will not have to worry about creating a hit single in the next few years; if she keeps giving shows like she did in Omaha, she will continue to pack venues with faithful fans.




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