I brought my second-grader, P, to the Tori Amos show at the Hult Center Nov. 25 (his first, my fifth) thinking that, as a budding performer himself, he might really be interested in her music, her performance, and all the other bits that go into a making a concert.
It’s a bit of a risk with him; will his attention span hold out? Will it be too loud? Will he talk in his too-loud voice or his too-loud stage whisper the entire performance? I keep my fingers crossed and we take the leap.
The opening act, Scars on 45, is a good choice as an opener. The music is nothing like Tori’s, but it is a solid three-piece Indie band, and the lead is charming and British. We made it to the show in time for five songs, and by the fourth my kiddo is asking, “Do you think their voices ever get tired?” Not because he doesn’t like them, but because, as the pursuing (stage-whispered) conversation reveals, he’s started to think about what it might be like to be up there himself, and how tiring it would be.
I explain a voice is like a muscle, and you have to condition it. And then, because it’s their job, they can sing every night. He is impressed by this. That performing can be a job.
We move to the lobby for a cookie and a drink while the stage crew does their magic. The set up cast the big pieces in shadows, but the pianos were there through the first act, sitting on a raised platform just behind the opening band. The giant Bossendorfer on stage left, the smaller bright red keyboard on stage right. No backing band or accompanist for Tori tonight.
When she comes on stage, the crowd rises to their feet, and despite the booster that the usher has brought him, P tells me loudly that he can’t see. I ask if he wants to come to the front with me to take a photo; we manage four before the usher shoos us back to our spot just in front of the sound and lights crew. The pictures are luminous. Tori is backed by a flaming forest as she launches into her first song, “iieee.” Back in our seats, I peek over at my kid’s rapt face. Tori sounds otherworldly, like something from a dream. He can’t make out the lyrics, but is entranced.
He remains so through several songs. His legs are still, his body in attention in the booster. He watches without comment. The lighting design is amazing, changing with every song, turning the concert hall into a kaleidoscope, a forest, the mountains, a rainstorm, I photograph a few of the changes from our seats, even as I’m crying during “Upside Down”: “I’ve found the secret to life / I’m okay when everything is not okay” she’s singing. Seeing Tori live can be cathartic like that, opening your heart as she pours hers out.
All the things that make Tori so great to see live are on display tonight: her fairy-like voice, her piano-bench straddle to play two instruments at once, the fallboard bang at the right moment. She croons “Putting the Damage On” and the crowd comes to their feet at the end. The song hasn’t faded in 20 years. We can all feel it.
P makes it through nine songs before he starts to get squirrely, but the kid is a huge fan of the Beatles, and “Let it Be” recharges him. He knows all the words to this one and is seeing it performed live for the first time. Magic. He holds on through lullaby versions of “Carbon” and “Merman”, but is asleep in my lap by the time “Here, in My Head” washes over the crowd two songs later, and stays that way as Tori finishes “Spring Haze.” The stage is cast in flames and red as she leaves the stage to thunderous applause, the upper balconies shaking with it.
P wakes up in time for the encore, “Cruel” and “Raspberry Swirl.” The crowd has moved from standing ovation to pushing against the stage. Tori stands at the piano during the last song, and it’s officially a rock concert. My kiddo stands and dances. We’re right in front of the sound and lights booths and there’s a single-serve container of Lucky Charms at head height (brought by the crew?) that he hasn’t touched and doesn’t touch, but we feel very lucky to have been here. We make our way across the sky bridge to the parking structure and we talk about the show. It’s a good night, and now it’s time for sleep.