“He had all these things there… Sandman comics… things like that…” Tori Amos, coincidentally playing in San Diego during Comic Con week, reminiscing about her brother (who was in attendance) back in the day, and the inspiration for her song, “Flying Dutchman”, which was third up on her phenomenal setlist at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay. This was my second show seeing the “Unrepentant Geraldines Tour” (having seen the show in Oakland on Monday night at the Paramount Theatre). As with that show, Tori is ever full of surprises, and the two shows were completely different on many levels. The most obvious being the venues, with the indoor, ornate, classy and historical Paramount Theatre having a certain sophistication, while the outdoor Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay is more relaxed, with the unmistakable coastal air and open feeling sitting out under the stars. With the setlists from the respective shows sharing only three songs (opening with “Parasol”, closing with “Cornflake Girl” and having “16 Shades of Blue” in their encores), it was two very different shows in terms of the music as well. The show in San Diego was at least to some degree a celebration of “Under the Pink”, as it was highly represented in the song choice. I loved both shows, but I’d have to say – for me – my love for Oakland’s was on more of an intellectual level, while San Diego’s was because she played more of the songs I truly love (and if I had to pick any one song for her to play, it would be “Bliss”, and she totally killed it on stage at Humprey’s. One of those rare artists that has the ability to completely change up her show night to night, this is definitely one of the best tours of 2014.
Who: Tori Amos
Supporting: Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou
Venue: Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay
Where: San Diego, California
Promoter: Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay and Lexus
When: July 24, 2014
Seating: Section 1, Row 3, Seat 9 (actual third row, left of center; also photo pass first two songs from rear balcony/soundboard)
Legendary singer-songwriter Tori Amos is currently in the midst of the U.S. dates for 2014′s world tour supporting the release of her 14th studio album, Unrepentant Geraldines, which came out in May. She is hitting U.S. cities throughout July and August.
I’ve been to Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay before and really love the venue. Not too big – just 1,400 seats compared to double that in Oakland earlier this week – and it is right on the water, which creates an awesome atmosphere.
I’ve also stayed at the hotel on property (see review from earlier this year), though not this time since I am in San Diego for Comic Con this week, and I am staying at the Marriott Marquis adjacent to the convention center (see my sister site, the Original Prop Blog, for my Comic Con coverage). My fiance and I also had an opportunity to have dinner at Humphrey’s Restaurant prior to the Tori Amos, which was excellent.
As mentioned in my last review, I am a huge Tori Amos fan, but probably not in the same league as the typical hard core Tori Amos fan who knows all the lyrics to every song and all of the details about her life, etc. She is one of my favorite artists, but my approach to her music is different – I give everything a listen but I find very strong (usually immediate) attachment to some songs and not as much to others. But I did travel to a festival in Switzerland – Caprices Festival – last year, and I ended up covering the entire 9-day event just because I felt it was far too long since I’d see Tori in concert, and that was I think maybe the only gig going last year for her.
Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou
I caught just a glimpse of the husband and wife duo supporting this leg of the tour earlier this week, as shooting that show I was escorted out of the Paramount Theatre after the first two songs.,
This time around, I got to enjoy their entire set, and thought their performance was quite good. Both play acoustic guitars and share a single microphone on a mic stand. Their voices are quite complimentary, and their is something about the tone and delivery that reminds me a little of James Blunt.
They played some old and new music, and it sounds like the latter will be available soon.
There is an interesting 2010 feature by The Guardian that gives a good background on them.
You can check out this live video on YouTube for “Never More Than A Moment” for an idea of their sound and style, which is representative of their stage presentation.
Below are some photos of Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou performing on stage:
As mentioned earlier, I had an opportunity to see Tori’s special appearance at Caprices Festival in the Swiss Alps last year, which ended up being one of my favorite concerts of 2013.
Since much of what I wrote in my review a few days ago applies, some of that is shared again below…
As I explained in my review of last year’s show, I first learned of Tori Amos and her music as a result of my love of comic books growing up. I started attending San Diego Comic Con annually when I was 14 – before I was even old enough to drive – and I was a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and his Sandman series of comic books. I would go to the convention, and in those years, artist Dave McKean (who “made” those amazing covers to the comic series) would have a booth and display his art, including the original artwork for those covers (much of which was made with real world items).
In any event, I had opportunity to speak with Neil time and again (Comic Con was much different in the late 80s and early 90s than it is today – artists and writers were very accessible), and he had told me about Tori, and then they began a series of kind of sending messages back and forth via their respective art forms, and lyrics from one of Tori’s songs found their way into an early issue of Sandman, and it just so happened that I saw Neil again at a signing at a small comic shop in San Francisco, if I remember correctly. So that was when I went out and bought Little Earthquakes, which had just recently debuted.
Unbelievable album. Just so singularly unique, powerful, musical, and with such raw energy and emotion and power. I’ve always loved piano in rock and pop songs, but it is rarely the focal point.
I absolutely loved Little Earthquakes, and it was immediately clear to me how and why Tori and Neil were admiring of each others’ works. It is as if they were spiritual twin brother and sister.
Just as rare, Tori is not one of those artists who opens large with an album and then nothing that follows measures up, or the sophomore and subsequent efforts simply don’t match up to the inspiration and quality.
If you look at her prolific output, it is obvious she is always looking to grow as an artist and try new things, as well as have new things to say. She is one of the artists who is trying to keep the album format alive, as hers always seem to be built upon conceptual foundations and new musical paths.
In addition, she does two things that I personally love, and that most artists avoid… she rerecords and reworks her own material, and she does some of the best cover versions of other artist’s work than anyone. She has such a unique and immediately identifiable style – not just the fact that she plays piano and keyboards – but her very unique style, emotion, and delivery. She also has a crazy ability to take requests during shows and just do a cover live and with no prep. She is truly a musical genius, and I’m beyond trying to figure out how she does what she does – it’s literally like magic.
In the past few years, she has released new studio albums with strong concepts – Night of Hunters (an all acoustic work with string and wind instruments accompanying her piano) and Gold Dust, wherein she reworks past songs (including some of my personal all-time favorites), but also in more of an orchestral style.
This year, she released the critically and commercially successful Unrepentant Geraldines, which hit No. 7 on The Billboard 200 album chart, and it marks a bit of a return to her traditional (for her) album style, following a variety of artistic endeavors, including the musical, The Light Princess, which has played at the National Theatre in London since 2013.
I have seen Tori Amos many times, going back to her Under The Pink album, if I remember correctly, so I have seen different presentations, ranging from just her and a piano to her with a full band.
So it was really awesome for me at the show at Humphrey’s Thursday night that she played so much from Under The Pink, as it really took me back a few decades to the first time I saw her perform live.
As I explained in my review of the Oakland show, I felt like she read my mind in playing “Tiny Dancer” just as I sort of wished she would; with San Diego, it was more like she played in many ways a dream setlist I might have come up with myself. I just loved the song choice, and she played everything magnificently.
With this tour, Tori has been posting a photo of the set list after each on her official Facebook page, so below is the one from Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay last night (not my photo credit):
Below is the same, written out by me, with the source of each song in parentheses…
- Parasol (from The Beekeeper)
- Space Dog (from Under the Pink)
- Flying Dutchman (from Under the Pink)
- Bells for Her (from Under the Pink)
- Baker Baker (from Under the Pink)
- Concertina (from To Venus and Back)
- Wild Way (from Unrepentant Geraldines)
- Alamo (B-Side to Talula from Boys for Pele)
- Tear in Your Hand (from Little Earthquakes)
- Livin’ on a Prayer (Bon Jovi cover) with Like a Prayer (Madonna cover)
- Say Something (A Great Big World cover)
- Forest of Glass (from Unrepentant Geraldines)
- Mother Revolution (from The Beekeeper)
- Mother (from Little Earthquakes)
- Another Girl’s Paradise (from Scarlet’s Walk)
- i i e e e (from From the Choirgirl Hotel)
- Cornflake Girl (from Under the Pink)
- Bliss (from To Venus and Back)
- Muhammad My Friend (from Boys for Pele)
- 16 Shades of Blue (from Unrepentant Geraldines)
- 1000 Oceans (from To Venus and Back)
With this show, Tori did an amazing sort of live megamix of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” with Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”, turning back and forth between her Bösendorfer piano and her electric keyboard. Loved it, and was just amazed on a technical level.
The second of the two covers I was completely unfamiliar with – “Say Something” from A Great Big World, but enjoyed it all the same.
The overall sound of the show was good, but not as exceptional as the Oakland show; in San Diego, the bass/low end seemed a little overpowered/distorted (though it might have been where I was seated). Even so, if I had to choose between the two, I think I loved the San Diego show more, as the setlist better matched up with my favorite songs.
More than 24 hours later, and I’m still completely jazzed over these shows and tour – just loved it, and wish I could see a third show somewhere. My highest recommendation if you can still make it out to one of these shows.
Below are some photos of Tori Amos performing on stage: