Tori Amos Live At Montreux 1991/1992 – [DVD]

Friday, 19 September 2008

Of course, in the case of any performer there will be people in their fan base that will proudly explain at the drop of a question that they ‘were there when,’ but seldom is every fan willing able to make the claim. Of course, anybody can buy a DVD of a performance if there happened to be a film crew present, but Eagle Eye’s presentation of Tori Amos’ sets in 1991 and 1992 at the Montreux Jazz Festival is different; on one DVD, viewers are afforded the opportunity to see the difference that a very exciting year in the life of a musician can make on both her songs as well as her performances of them.

In 1991 – before she released Little Earthquakes – it would be polite to say that Tori Amos was a private pleasure. She hadn’t broken yet (the dead giveaway during her set is when the singer admits, “This is very unusual for me – I usually play in my living room. Well, this could be a big living room….”) and it really shows in the performance; the “sweet and meek but abused headcase” persona that is how the world at large first came to know Amos is understated in her ten-song set and seems genuine because of that fact. Tracks including “Silent All These Years,” “Precious Things” and “Leather” have an energy here that is seethingly cathartic and ecstatic at once and Amos’ presence is captivating because of those things; in 1991 she appeared fragile sitting at her piano, but it is also the thing that keeps her going and lights her up.

Back then, no one knew if they’d ever see the girl who, when addressing her audience, had a propensity to straddle her bench but the remarkable caliber of the performance gave hope that it wouldn’t be the last they’d see. The 1991 set was beautiful, cathartic and warm, but who could have assumed that Tori Amos would be back the very next year not only with a record climbing the charts, but selling in spectacular number as well?

Nearly a year to the day later, Tori Amos retook the Montreux stage with a similar approach and a few of the same songs in her set, but with a very different demeanor. ; the dead giveaway is when less than a minute into her opening performance of “Little Earthquakes,” when she stops to accost a couple of audience members for talking. Amos appears harder, more assured, more confident and more accomplished on the same stage less than a year later and nothing about the 1992 performance doesn’t illustrate it; from the more vibrant colors of her stage attire to the more carnal and teasing nature of performance of songs like “Silent All These Years,” “Precious Things,” a cover of “Whole Lotta Love” to bolster the Zep cover of “Thank You” that appears in both sets as well as, of course, the famous cover of “Teen Spirit” (that qualifies as the first Nirvana cover – only about seventeen months after Nevermind’s release) that made – and continues to make – jaws drop.

The single word that best describes the look dominating the singer’s visage throughout the second set is one of smug vindication. As she grinds her piano bench and hit’s the high notes of Robert Plant’s melody in “Whole Lotta Love” (and to a lesser degree in “Silent All These Years”) there’s a remarkably erotic edge of domination in the singer’s voice and the tenor of the performance shifts from the modest and bashful hope of the year before to one that almost drips aggression every time Amos opens her mouth.

Until of course the bravado breaks on the a capella performance of “Me And A Gun.” Instantly the singer reverts to an even more frail and innocent creature than the one that appeared upon the stage at Montreux the year previous and breaks hearts with her outpouring. In that moment, Tori Amos removes all doubt that, in a year’s time, she has learned to work a crowd and engulf them in her atmosphere; it’s a breathtaking moment.

As a study in evolution, Tori Amos’ Live In Montreux 1991/1992 DVD is a must-see because it illustrates the difference that one remarkable year made in the creative growth in Tori Amos. The feelings expressed in both shows are very similar but, unlike most performers, the acceptance that the singer received between these shows opened her up and made her want to bear all to her audience. Some might say it’s a contrivance – that in order to put her act over the top, she had to exaggerate her mannerisms to make an impression. Anyone that sees this DVD will know that not to be true though; without her audience and the unconditional acceptance of it, Tori Amos would never have been able to be honest enough with herself to produce her best work later on.


Live at Montreux 1991/92 is out now. Buy it NOW on

Tori Amos – "Silent All These Years"

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