Tori Amos has certainly earned her reputation as the eccentric woman on pop music's fringes. Her piano-bench gyrations and provocative lyrics leave some people cold, and her assertions that her songs come to her via voices, spirits, even Vikings make her seem, well, kooky.
But beneath the faerie-queen veneer lies a woman whose personal evolution has been documented on four albums. Her deeply personal lyrics set her apart from other rock stars; she allows her listeners a backdoor peek into her psyche. Little Earthquakes (1992) was an explicit, raw exploration of Amos's rape by an armed attacker. Her 1996 release, Boys for Pele, was a sexually charged effort that she said charted "a change in [her] relationships with men for good." Her barbs toward religion ("If the divine master son is perfection / Maybe next I'll give Judas a try") reveal a struggle against prescribed standards of spirituality and worship.
Her latest record, from the choirgirl hotel, was born of tragedy. Near the end of her 1996 tour, Tori discovered that she was pregnant. Then, two days before Christmas, she miscarried at three months. Although she hadn't planned to make another album at that point, the songs (the choirgirls in the record's title) just started coming. Some of the lyrics are downright heartbreaking: "She's convinced she could hold up a glacier / but she couldn't keep baby alive."
As she describes her loss, we run through a gamut of emotions -- anger, sadness, acceptance -- and are ultimately left feeling uplifted. And it doesn't hurt that the music is damn good, especially pounding songs like "Raspberry Swirl." Catharsis with a dance beat.
Tori Amos performs Saturday, October 3, at 8 p.m. at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Tickets $17.50$32.50. The Devlins open. Call 629-3700 for tickets.