Tori Amos Shares an Intimate Night at Artpark
It's not very often an artist evades me for a long stretch of time, and very rarely do I ever go years (much less decades) before seeing an act that I've grown to appreciate. This has definitely been the case with Tori Amos, however. I was introduced to her music the summer I graduated high school (1998), and I've been trying to catch a show ever since. Twenty-five years later, it kills me to look back at the set lists of shows that I could have gone to. However, those are the memories for the fans that have been in it for the long-haul. For now, I'll settle for the set we experienced this past Saturday night when Tori brought her "Ocean to Ocean' Tour through Artpark here in Western New York.
I arrived plenty early for the show, and I must say, the layout at Artpark is really spectacular. Whether the show is at the Main Stage Theater (as this was) or the outdoor stage, the venue is such a relaxing environment for concertgoers and this show was no exception. They have a wide-open promenade set up with a variety of food and beverage options as people gather in anticipate of the evening's show. On this particular night, the line for merchandise was exceptionally long. Despite this being my first Tori show, it took only a moment to realize that her fans are fiercely loyal. Looking at the setlists from prior shows, it's easy to understand why. Similar to the likes of Pearl Jam or the Dave Matthews Band, Tori Amos has cultivated an intense following by performing a carefully procured set from one night to the next, never playing the same show twice. As a die-hard Metallica fan, this was their formula in the 2000's as well, and as a result, fans will follow a tour, rather than simply catching a date or two.
The show started out with a half-hour set from Tow'rs, a folk band hailing from Flagstaff, Arizona. They performed a few selections including a cover of Bob Dylan's "Boots of Spanish Leather" as fans continued to fill their seats. While I'm unfamiliar with this band, their set was entertaining enough, and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. They were both enjoyable and a bit comical at the same time.
Tow'rs opened up the evening for Tori Amos
Tori's set began with a dark stage as drummer Ash Soan took the stage, followed shortly by bassist John Evans. They began to play as Tori entered state left, paused for a quick acknowledgement and took her seat between her grand piano and her keyboard. She opened the set up with "God," from her 1994 album, 'Under the Pink.' Immediately following was the title track from 2021's 'Ocean to Ocean' before rounding out the opening three with "Mrs. Jesus."
It was around this time that I realized the challenge that Tori faces from night to night. How does she manage to vary the setlist so much, while still bringing a memorable show for all in attendance? This is never an easy answer for an artist. Some play it safe and stick to a purely "greatest hits" set night after night. Others will throw in the occasional B-side or rare track. It's a rare artist, however, that will delivery something truly unique night after night.
Tori Amos performing at Artpark in Lewiston, New York
The added challenge is that of a prolific songwriter with a catalog that spans thirty years and well over a dozen albums. How do you prune those songs into a little under two hours of music every night? Like so many artists, Tori Amos has the double-edged sword of an absolute monster of an early catalog. If you grew up with any of her material in the 90's, you know full-well that she could pack her nightly setlist without every straying from her first decade and still keep things interesting from night to night.
This was especially obvious when she began the intro to "Silent All These Years" about halfway through the show. The crowd was sure to let their approval be known, as the entire audience erupted in cheers. Later in the evening, when she started into "Precious Things," the audience went absolutely bananas. Dozens of the seated audience left their seats and back into the immediate area in front of the stage. The nostalgia was palpable, and I can only imagine the memories rushing back to the rest of the crowd at that same moment. It was this same moment that let me to the conclusion that her show is really meant for a much more formal evening. Tori should be doing an "evening with" engagement, complete with an intermission breaking up a three-hour set. There's no need for an opening act either, these fans know who they're here to see. That's a show I'd secure tickets for months in advance.
Tori Amos performed to a packed house at Artpark on July 8th
Who am I kidding though. This show was awesome, and I was left wanting more. It may have taken more twenty-five years to see Tori Amos for the first time, but it certainly won't take me longer than the next tour to see her again.
Tori's "Ocean to Ocean" tour runs through July 28th where this leg will conclude in Woodinville, Washington. Grab a ticket if they're still available and enjoy yourself. This one is not to be missed.