Review by Adrienne Frances with photography by John Hayhurst.

I know commitment. I know love, and dedication, and perseverance… as evidenced in my long time love affair with Tori Amos. Through her dabbling with electro (not keen, but I love her nonetheless), creating a beautiful musical theatre piece (vastly underrated), jetsetting to international gigs (staying in strangers houses all over the place), nurturing friendships with other similarly obsessed fans (she inspires obsession and camaraderie more than any other musician I know), and seeing her more than 25 times in my 20+ year love (and counting).

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So I find myself on her ‘Native Invaders’ tour, feeling nervousness over whether her set will be full of new material, or whether she’ll tempt us with a few older gems. ‘Native Invaders’ has so far left me feeling underwhelmed – a return to an 80’s sound, with vocals which err on the side of overproduction. I hoped that this gig would help me connect with the album, but would also reaffirm my long-held love.

Support was from Bell X1, the first time I’ve seen Tori supported by someone with their own cachet. Given that they’ve existed since 1999, with a heritage involving Damien Rice and a huge cult following in Ireland, it was no surprise the crowd loved their confident stage presence, and storytelling lyrics. Listening to them makes me wonder how it is that they’re still relatively unknown in the UK – songs like ‘Bad Skin Day’ were a treat, and made me want to sneak out in the interval to buy them out of merch and get everything signed!

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It began with ‘Iieee’ as Tori Amos took to the stage to a looped pre-recorded backing track making me feel nervous.. was she reworking older tracks to keep with the ‘Native Invaders’ vibe? But midway through she flipped her keyboard sound to that of a toy piano, and suddenly I’m imagining ‘Boys for Pele ‘and am lost in her voice and her music. ‘Space Dog’ followed, and all fears melted away, lost in a backdrop of burning tees and snow capped mountains and stark losers and glittering lights.

“I’m trying to do a lot of requests and I can’t get to all of them but I hope some people are happy..”

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The requests included the likes of ‘Suede’, and then ‘Jamaica Inn’ which was a REAL treat as she ended with a segue into ‘Pirates’ – from her very first album (as ‘Y Kant Tori Read’) and sent the crowd into raptures. The set was packed with ‘Beekeeper’ tracks throughout.

The few ‘Native Invaders’ tracks (‘Climb’, ‘Reindeer King’ and ‘Cloud Riders’) were met with glee from the eager crowd.. and live, they made so much more sense – as is always the way with Tori. She excels when it’s her and a piano and her voice, and a rapturous audience she looks out at and connects with. The raw vocals and the presence of her Bosendorfer feels unlike any other live experience, and ‘Reindeer King’ was a triumph.

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Highlights for me included ‘Almost Rosey’, with a final intense verse contrasting with the gentle chorus.. and then the utterly impromptu improvised serenade to a fan who called out to her, singing: “Go on little Mancunian baby go on, dream of me in the sunshine, baby”

She’s nothing if not a serious crowd pleaser – adding “…don’t look back in anger” to the end of ‘Upside Down 2’, bringing every last jaded Manchester audience member back on side.

‘Tear In Your Hand’ and ‘Cornflake Girl’ were welcomed in the encore, of which there was only one. That’s how long I’ve been seeing her live – remembering fondly the 4 encores she would sometimes treat the crowd to. However with the drive back to the midlands awaiting, I felt sated and full of diminished chords and lost lonely lyrics and the joy of hearing my favourite long time love perform live.


Bell X1 – Selist:
Bad skin day
Velcro
Take your sweet time
Careful what you wish for
Built to last
The end is nigh

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Tori Amos – Setlist
Iieee
Space dog
Suede
Jamaica Inn – ending with Pirates from ‘Y Kant Tori Read’
Sister Janet
Climb
Toast
Boys in the trees (Carly Simon cover)
Upside Down 2 / View from Copenhagen
Reindeer king
Mother
Flavor
Martha’s foolish ginger
Almost Rosey

Encore
Tear in your hand
Cloud riders
Cornflake girl

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