Although Tori Amos’s South African shows are being billed as part of her Night of Hunters tour, the solo shows promise something far more precious to South African audiences than a performance of her new album, released on the pre-eminent record label Deutsche Gramaphon. Rather than hearing just the new classically derived song-cycle, Joburg and Cape Town audiences will hear the acclaimed singer, songwriter and piano virtuoso perform a range of songs from the more than 13 albums she has released since Little Earthquakes in 1992.
“Normally, when I go to a place for the first time, like when I went to Russia the first time or Australia, I go alone and play a solo concert,” says Amos. “I want to establish a relationship with the audience, so it’s a very intimate setting – just me and the piano. It also means I can change the show every night in extreme ways that would not be possible if I had other musicians with me.”
It’s superb news for South African fans, many of whom have faithfully followed Amos through her interest in various musical, mythical and lyrical themes across the albums. Also, while it means that local audiences might have to wait until they hear Amos playing with a classical quartet, as she is doing for the other dates on the world tour, it means we’re getting a show peppered with the songs that made her famous, rather than just the songs on her latest album.
“With Night of Hunters, I used the structure of a classical song cycle to explore a space where female composers in the classical world have never really been given equally opportunities,” explains Amos. “For females in the pop world, doors have opened up wide in the last 34 years, but not so with classical music. With the quartet, this modern song-cycle is what we’re playing. But some of the musicians have gotten married recently, and they needed to go and be with their wives. It seemed right to let them go home and to come down with the crew and play a solo show in Africa, where I can do whatever I want for this new audience.”
Interested fans will want to track down Tori Amos Live at Montreux, the record of her 1991/92 shows, to get a sense of the performer’s skill at handling a live solo outing. On more than one occasion during the show, she takes inspiration from the crowd or the setting and veers into different territory, taking the delighted audience along on her sonic exploration.
“Rolling Stone magazine has voted her one of the best live performers of all time,” says concert promoter Charl van Heyningen, who recently brought Imogen Heap to our shores. “My aim is to fill a niche as a promoter to bring out artists of substance, rather than the commercial acts that the larger promoters generally focus on, and we can definitely expect something special from her performances.”
In truth, Amos has achieved that rarest of pinnacles, garnering both critical respect for her lyrics and willingness to experiment sonically and thematically, as well as achieving international renown during a career that has seen her sell more than 12 million records.
She has also been awarded a sponsorship from Bösendorfer, who craft the pianos she plays at her concerts around the world. It is a subject she loves to speak about. She literally laughs in delight when the instruments are mentioned.
“I was delighted to find out that there was a Bösendorfer in South Africa waiting to meet me,” she says. “She’s there, waiting to become part of this and I’m quite excited to meet and play with a being that I haven’t met before, and haven’t played on, and that hails from so far away. I will just have said farewell to my Bösendorfer – right after our Albert Hall show all the gear has to leave that night to get on a boat for the United States. I’ll actually need to finish the Irish leg of the tour on a different piano, while mine goes across the sea.”
Amos has waxed lyrical about the pianos in interviews before, saying: “They can speak, and they can listen. When you play them, you become an extension. They give you the opportunity to anyway, and, if you don’t choose to have a relationship with them, an affair, then that is your loss, I guess.”
I tease Amos about having an open relationship with so many instruments and she laughs. “I love her, but she doesn’t get a vote – she goes on a boat. There is more than one that I have a relationship with, but they all get along. We have to make decisions about which travel best because of changes in temperature and humidity. I’ve never played one I didn’t find magical and I can’t wait to meet yours.”
l Amos plays at 3pm at Emperors Casino in Joburg today, and in Cape Town on Thursday at 8pm at the GrandWest Grand Arena Tickets are from R390 at Computicket.com. See ToriAmos.com - Weekend Argus