What struck me as peculiar about attending Tori Amos’ concert at the Cape Town International Convention Centre was the clinical reception just before entering the swish theatre where she was performing the Cape Town leg of the tour for her new album Unrepentant Geraldines. I suppose when it comes to my attendance of live, contemporary music, I’m used to grungy bars and intimate settings.
Yet, little as I know about Amos, the ambience did not feel like a natural association to the distinctive singer-songwriter, and it was discomfiting watching people mill across the plush carpet, sipping wine and buying overpriced snacks served by smartly-dressed attendants. But once I walked inside, the doors shut and the show began this feeling was quickly dispelled, as the closed environs of the theatre ensured that it was just me and the music.
The melancholy soulfulness of South African musician Michael Lowman – who accompanied Amos during her shows in Johannesburg and Cape Town – was a perfect match. He wooed the audience with mystical melodies and self-deprecating charm, setting the tone for the evening. This was sadly and crudely interrupted by the interval. Considering his set was half and hour and Amos’ was well over two, it was ill-placed and killed the mood he set so well.
My bafflement was not eased by the wriggliest audience I have ever encountered since performing for hungry five-year olds – topped by the bane of concert-goers: those who step out early to avoid after-show traffic. But, all grumbling aside, none of this could mar the experience of watching an incredible show which I chose to cover on a whim.
My only real encounters of Amos’ music are the tracks my best friend, an avid fan, plied me with in high school. I recognised none of her songs, which made the show that much more interesting – like some confused concoction of déjà and jamais vu. And with my love for the piano, what could be better than watching Amos flit between a grand piano and an electronic keyboard, watching the music consume her body as she flowed between the two?
Her shimmering costume was alarmingly redolent of Elton John, making her cover of his song Somebody Saved My Life Tonight – during her self-dubbed section “The Lizard Lounge” in which she plays a collection of covers – amusingly relevant, whether intentional or not.
With her flaming red hair, otherworldly attire and giggly whisper whenever she spoke, she came across as some kind of elfin pixie – a feeling heightened by the effectively minimalist stage décor and intricate lighting which evoked the feeling of a nymph-land forest. The entire performance pulled you into this world, lulled by her gorgeous vocals.
Having toured South Africa before in 2011, and with a career spanning more than thirty years, there is much to suggest that Tori Amos will return to our woods, something which should not be missed should she alight here again – for a memorable performance like hers is much like the fairy-tale creature she evoked: so wonderful, it must be seen to be believed.