July 26, 2023
Photos by Raymond Ahner.
For the first time in nine years, the transcendently talented Tori Amos took to a stage in San Francisco. She has played in the Bay since then, just not in San Francisco. She mentioned as much at the beginning of her set, acknowledging the crowd and igniting an ovation that was repeated constantly throughout the evening.
Classy, colorful, and flowing, and that was just what she was wearing, Amos mesmerized and amazed with her angelic voice and effortless piano expertise, leading her three-piece band through a unique and inspired two hour set at the Masonic Auditorium.
Joined by renowned bassist Jon Evans and the pocket perfect drumming of Ash Soan, Amos put on a performance that celebrated the recently passed Sinead O’Connor (RIP), blissful gratitude, and foremost Tori’s deep and underrated musical catalog.
Speaking of which, she showed just how deep that well is by playing an almost completely different set than she did the evening before at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. To start the evening, she prepared the stage by burning sage and incense and wafting it across the front of the stage. She then sat at her Bosendorfer grand piano and reached back to the beginning of her career, tapping into the classic Little Earthquakes (1992) album.
After finishing the album’s title track as the opener, she honored Sinead O’Connor by stating that she was a powerful social voice and an artist who wrote incredible music. The band then enthralled the sellout Masonic crowd with a beautiful version of ‘Crucify.’
Interestingly when Amos spoke, it was in somewhat hushed, scratchy tones. However, when singing, she hit clear soaring notes that lifted the entire auditorium.
In between songs, Amos frequently shuffled notes atop her piano, arranging them like a mad scientist. Seated legs apart and straddling her piano bench between her Bosendorfer grand and her dual stacked synthesizer, Miss Manners would have definitely called her positioning ‘un-ladylike.’ However, in the eyes of her fans (many witches and faeries and sprites dancing and spinning throughout the Masonic), she was every bit the ‘lady.’
With the projection backdrop changing to shimmery ocean-like imagery, bassist Adams plucked out the melodic lines of ‘Ocean to Ocean’ with Soan joining in with atmospheric drum splashes. Tori then sprinkled in piano flourishes mirroring and answering Adams on the bass….a true symphony of sound coming from just three musicians.
Turning back to material from Little Earthquakes, Soan dropped a rock-solid bass drum / snare beat, and the trio lifted off on an absolutely brilliant version of ‘Girl.’ Amos, wearing her now customary librarian glasses, cascaded her piano playing over the melodic bass and percussion.
As she belted out the earnest and in-your-face honest lyrics to ‘Girl,’ she flipped her long red locks back and forth, alternating her laser focus between her instrument, the microphone, and occasionally snapping her sight quickly back to the crowd with a knowing smirk on her face.
“She’s everybody else’s girl…maybe one day she’ll be her own.” The words hauntingly echoed through the hall as the audience let it all wash over them. When the lyrics would break, fans snapped out of their hypnosis to offer approving cheers and hollers. Tori Amos was in her perfect element…storytelling and playing her instrument to perfection. As the song came to an end, another of those raucous ovations erupted.
With fans hanging on her every word, Soan and Evans exited the stage, leaving Amos and her piano front and center to inject another impromptu tribute to O’Connor into the set, channeling Sinead on covers ‘I am Stretched On Your Grave’ and a heart-wrenchingly beautiful delivery of ‘Three Babies.’ There were actually tears on some faces in the crowd.
The one-night stand love affair continued, with the main set culminating with the upbeat ‘Take to the Sky’ spiced with a creative interlude of Carole King’s ‘I Feel the Earth Move.’ As the trio briefly exited, fans clapped and stomped for more action.
Returning for a two-song encore, Amos and her bandmates got psychedelic for a completely standing full house blasting out ‘God’ and the mesmerizing ‘The Waitress’ from Under the Pink (1994).
As the final notes hung in the air, Amos stood and applauded the audience and made continuous gestures of thanks and group hugs. Her band then joined her at the front of the stage to celebrate and take one last bow … the spoils of a triumphant night of music for Bay Area Tori Amos fans.
Arizona folk band Tow’rs opened the evening for a 35-minute set of acoustic guitar and harmonies. The trio consists of Gretta (vox / percussion) and Kyle Miller (vox / guitar), and Dan Bagle (keys / drums).
Starting in with the mellow twang of ‘Water Under the Bridge,’ Tow’rs showed a maturity to their sound, especially the vocal interplay between Gretta and Kyle which takes a big influence from Fleetwood Mac in a very complimentary way.
Especially well received by the early arrivers was a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’ in which Gretta Miller stood still in front of her mic stand and executed powerful vocals in a quiet and laid back manner that commanded the attention of the crowd.
While Tow’rs was not the reason the crowd was there, they surely earned some new fans with their short and sweet opening set.