Tori Amos at GrandWest Arena

Since the visit of that Irish preacherman to our shores for the U2 360┬░ Tour, a few notable musicians have been to Cape Town, but last night’s Tori Amos gig was the first to lure the Doctor and me back into the crowd. And worthwhile it was. Ms Amos puts on a fine show – full of energy and passion – and if you like her tunes too, there would be little to complain about regarding this stop on her ‘Night of Hunters’ tour. A few brief notes on the evening:

Facilities: The bars only served bad beer, sweet white wine (ie. also bad) and bad red wine. The latter was also in short supply, and the two bars we queued at ran out just as we reached the head of the queue. Alternately, we were the victim of some prejudice or other, given this suspicious timing. Seeing as there were plenty of empty seats in the arena, this does not bode well for how they would cope with a sold-out event. (Perhaps some of you who went to the Kylie Minogue show can comment?).

Opening act: Yoav,┬áIsraeli born but bred in Cape Town. This man and his guitar combine to create some lovely sounds – he does electronica-style beats with his hands on the guitar, which combine with a strong and evocative voice to create some quite compelling tunes. Check his interesting biography here, and if you get a chance to hear him live, it should be worth your while.

Tori: She is utterly nuts – she’s got the Earth Mother thing going, combined with a manic intensity that sometimes led you to think she was about to swallow a microphone or pound a keyboard to bits. But also bloody good at what she does. In terms of performers looking and acting like they give a damn about putting on a good show, she’s up there with the best I’ve seen. Because this was an unplugged-style concert (just her and two pianos), many of the tracks had different arrangements to the ones you’d have heard on the albums, and I’d say that all of them worked very well (with the possible exception of “Concertina”, which I thought lacked the driving rhythm of the recorded version). The best of the night for me was either “Hey Jupiter” or her cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” (a quite regular cover, along with The Cure’s Lovesong, which we unfortunately didn’t get to hear this time). “Me and a Gun” worked well live, thanks to both the intensity of the lyrics and that voice of hers – the arena was utterly silent for this, and I’d imagine it would have been the highlight of the evening for some.

The only general regret I have – and it’s not a complaint, as the show was memorable and very worthwhile – was that for an artist who has such a large catalogue, it’s unfortunate that 7 of the 17 tracks were off “Little Earthquakes”. In the 20 years since that (debut) album was released, there have been 11 others, so we only got to hear a small selection of her music. This might of course have been to the taste of many present, who at least knew the words and could therefore sing along. And this was a problem. As I said above, many of the songs had new arrangements, so the enthusiastic backup singers in the crowd around us had little choice but to fumble along as best they could, matching the tempo of what they were hearing to what they remembered in real-time. And this no doubt sounded better in their heads than it did in ours. Or at least, I’d think so – because if it did sound as bad to them as to us, I imagine that they would have stopped trying.

The sound was great, unlike at the U2 concert. My only technical complaint is regarding the lighting. We were in the 5th row, below the stage, and would quite regularly be temporarily blinded by one or more lights pointed straight at us at eye-level. But this is a minor quibble, and one could always watch one of the two big screens instead of the stage when this happened.

And finally, a special mention to the Queen of the Nile, who gave me a 900% return on investment after I apparently pushed her buttons in the right sequence. Thanks and praise be to the law of averages, along with confirmation bias.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.