In a music world littered with pained confessionals, angst-ridden tales of abuse and 12-step program graduates sits Tori Amos, under a single bright spotlight, singing — no, make that emoting –“Me and a Gun,” a track from her 1991 Atlantic album, “Little Earthquakes.”
This song, Amos’ terrifying recollection of a sexual assault that she once suffered, remains her piece de resistance, the singular creative moment in her brief solo career that dramatically separates her from her contemporaries.
There is a moment of silence at song’s end, followed by stunned applause from the capacity crowd. Not cheers for the song or the artist, but a heartfelt reaction.
She followed with “Baker, Baker” from her new Atlantic release, “Under the Pink.””Baker, baker, make me whole again”– a sign of survival and escape.
But it the sense of ultimate healing that makes Amos such a compelling artist.
Another key is her sharp, perhaps surprising sense of wit and humor that connects with the audience. Teetering on heavy-handedness but never crossing that fatal line, Amos lessens the blows of these tales of neglect, paranoia, loneliness and lost dreams with light quips that serve as perfect setups to the songs, similar to the anecdotal stories that sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov uses to precede his essays.
“Icicle,” an empowering tome of self-reliance, an updated version of her take on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the hit “Silent All These Years” and “Winter,” a raw, emotional song of desired reconciliation softened by a bittersweet melody, were the best moments of a 95-minute show that simply lacked filler.
“Come along now little darlin’, we’ll see how brave you are,” she sings on “Yes, Anastasia,” the final song on the new album. We already know how brave Amos is.