Judge Clark Douglas is a happy phantom.
Our review of Tori Amos: Live At Montreux 1991-1992, published September 25th, 2008, is also available.
"I'm used to playing in my living room. Wow, this is a big living room."
Now this is kind of a new thing. I've seen quite a lot of concert performances on DVD and Blu-ray in my time; plenty of good ones and almost as many disappointing ones. However, I can't recall seeing one quite like this. Tori Amos: Live at Montreux spotlights an important moment in the career of the piano-playing singer/songwriter, offering two 45-minute sets from the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1991 and 1992.
According to the liner notes included with this disc, the performance from 1991 is the earliest existing footage of Amos in concert. The performance came a full six months before Amos' first album (the aptly-titled Little Earthquakes) was released, and Amos was nothing more than a hopeful up-and-comer at the time. Her performance is nervous, sweet, and a little unpolished at times (she forgets the words to one of her songs). Amos fans will undoubtedly be quite intrigued to see the singer in this delicate stage of her career, even if it's hardly an ideal demonstration of her talent.
Amos seems particularly uncomfortable as she gets started with the first few numbers (many of which would later appear on Little Earthquakes ). "Silent All These Years," "Precious Things," "China," and "Crucify" all sound a bit stiff and distant here, and the audience reception is a little less than enthusiastic. Then things seem to shift just a little. Amos turns to the audience and tells them a secret: "I played this next song for a record guy. He said that if I played it, I had no career. So, I'm gonna play it." She then rips into an enthusiastically dirty little number called "Leather," and it really seems to break the ice. From that point on, the numbers are more engaging, with highlights being found in the lush "Winter" and the cover of the Led Zeppelin song "Thank You."
Fast forward exactly one year to 1992, and we see a woman who has been transformed. This is no longer Tori Amos: Talented Newcomer, but rather Tori Amos: Critically Acclaimed Star. One can immediately sense a far greater degree of confidence in the singer, who seems to command the stage this time around. From the very beginning, Amos seems determined to assert herself. Halfway through her first number, she notices some chatty audience members. She stops the song and snaps, "Hey, did you come here to hear some music or did you come here to talk? You paid a lot of money to get in here, I think."
The songs also seem to have a slightly sharper edge this time around. Amos' voice is considerably more dynamic, and there's absolutely none of the slightly embarrassed hesitation that defined much of the first performance. On a more personal level, I also enjoyed her playing in 1992 performance a bit more. A year earlier, she had used a slightly flat Yamaha keyboard, which is replaced in the second concert by a rich Steiner & Sons grand piano. Cool beans. Many of the songs from the first performance are reprised here, though we do get some new stuff. For one thing, Amos kicks off with the title track from Little Earthquakes and also adds a bit of "Whole Lotta Love" to her performance of "Thank You." In addition, we hear the striking rape ballad "Me and a Gun" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as an encore.
Like all of the Montreux Jazz Festival Blu-ray releases from Eagle Vision, this is presented in 1080i rather than 1080p. While that's kind of disappointing, the transfer is effective enough. The concert itself simply isn't all that great to look at, just because Amos, the lighting, and the stage design look like the dying words of the 1980s. If that's your thing, that's your thing, but I found it to be a bit of an eyesore. In addition, the HD does poor Ms. Amos no favors when it comes to the 1991 concert, as she seems to be suffering from some sort of chin rash. The sound is reasonably good, though Amos' voice is occasionally a bit quiet in contrast to the piano during the 1992 concert. There are no extras included on the disc.
Though these Montreux Jazz Festival performances hardly constitute "The
Ultimate Tori Amos Concert Performance," (after all, she only had one album
of material to work with) they're engaging enough. Considering that the Blu-ray
format doesn't really bring a whole lot to the table here, I can't really
recommend it for the average viewer. Genuine Amos fans will probably find this a
compelling viewing experience. Guilty, with a sentence of time served.
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