On her new album, Strange Little Girls
, Tori Amos
covers songs that male songwriters (ranging from Joe Jackson to Eminem) have penned about women. Amos' attempt to reclaim these songs for their female subjects is, in a broader sense, the great project of her career. The Tori story is a nifty feminine rearrangement of the familiar rock motifs of repression, rebellion and sexuality. Raised by a conservative Baptist minister, she found solace (and stimulation, she admits) in the forbidden fruit of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin but still chose to pursue that more "feminine" instrument, the piano. Her prodigious talent got her into the Peabody Institute at age 5, but her love for the Doors and John Lennon got her kicked out after a few years -- at least according to the myth. After playing trashy bars in high school, she formed the glossy metal-pop outfit Y Kant Tori Read. When that project went south, she suffered a traumatic depression, which she funneled into 1991's Little Earthquakes
, a spartan record that combined her oft-puzzling lyrics with her playful sexuality and impressively nimble work on keyboards. It was a surprise hit, engendering a million-strong, decade-long cult of repressed intellectual girls and poetic boys.Nothing she can ever do will add to or detract from her quirky, softly subversive appeal, but that's neither here nor there. The best reasons to see Amos in a live setting are far more conventional. First, she's one hell of a musician, and on this, her most stripped-down tour in years, she'll have lots of room to strut her stuff onstage. Second, she's one hell of an interpreter, both of other people's material and her own. She performs no song the same way live as on record, and some would even say she never performs the same song the same way twice
. It's up to the whims of the evening whether, say, "Happy Phantom" will become a dirge or a flirty cabaret number. Finally, she's one hell of a personality. Her between-song anecdotes cover everything from her first crush to her love of a good margarita. Here's a woman in desperate need of an episode of Storytellers
, but until then, this concert will have to do.