From the very beginning, Tori Amos established herself as a singular presence. By measure both tender and tenacious, her songs challenged and chided listeners through intimate observations and unapologetic narratives that frequently surveyed the darkest and direst circumstance.
Her unbridled passion and brash delivery may have had their origins in the introspective approach of feminine folk bards like Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, and Judy Collins. But unlike Joni, Janis, and Judy, Tori's brooding ballads revealed her in ways that were exceptionally intimate and private. The feelings she shared were palpable, providing her narratives with a riveting if unrelenting connection.
As a rule, Amos has never refrained from baring her soul and detailing even her most painful personal experiences, whether dealing with rape, religion, a miscarriage, or a troubled marriage.
Indeed, this eight-time Grammy nominee has always shown an ability to blend imagery and allegory in equal measure. And rarely is an artist this real. When she performed at the Fillmore Miami Beach for the first time several years ago, she was so caught up in emotion, she had to leave the stage to compose herself.
Consequently, anyone who hasn't caught up with Tori Amos in a while may approach that belated encounter with a bit of trepidation. At times, her music can be a minefield laden with troubled circumstance and extreme discomfort, a surefire means of circumventing any possibility for an instant embrace.
Happily then, despite its somewhat foreboding banner, her new album, Unrepentant Geraldines, places the emphasis on her delicate delivery and the sensuous stylings that graced the best of her endeavors.
It's no surprise that when it comes strictly to her sound she's most frequently compared to Kate Bush. Like that English songstress, Amos possesses a delicate yet precocious style that often appears to hover just above terra firma. And like Bush, Amos can simultaneously exude feistiness and vulnerability.
To wit, the new album's most provocative entry, "Wild Way," finds her castigating a lover with a repeated refrain that consists solely of "I hate you," even while owning up to the fact that her defenses have completely crumbled.
Still, despite her tendency to get swept up in emotional overload, Tori's soaring soprano, gilded piano playing, and effervescent arrangements remain unparalleled.
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And when she clears her palette of anything that appears ominous, the reassuring results echo with a grace and sigh all her own.
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Tori Amos' Unrepentant Geraldines Tour. With Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou. Sunday, August 24. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $38.50 to $52.50 plus fees via livenation.com. All ages. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.