Appearing in Michigan
The American Doll Posse Tour
8 p.m. Oct. 27
Fox Theatre, Detroit
Tori Amos isn’t herself lately.
She’s Pip, a confrontational warrior. She’s Isabel, a political photographer. She’s the sensualistic Santa. And the emotionally-wounded idealist Clyde.
But as she gabs from Boston – breaking from the archetypes she’s become on her latest album, “American Doll Posse” – she’s that quirky redhead who’s still as sweet as the brownie she’s indulging in. When we check in toward the interview’s end, Amos tell us she’s stopped chomping on the extra-chocolatey treat: “It’s so good that I needed to stop now – or it was going to take over my whole being.”
All the while, her daughter, Natashya, is hanging with the musician’s 15-year-old niece – who’s likely feeding Amos’ girl more than she needs to know. If that’s even possible.
“She is In Touch (Weekly) magazine,” Amos asserts – and then backpedals: “No. In Touch magazine is not accurate. Tash is accurate.”
Amos won’t call her 7-year-old a sponge; she’s a recording device. So when the youngster tossed out a question – “What’s a homo?” – to the metaphorical matriarch after hearing the term used by the touring crew (some of whom are gay), Amos knew she couldn’t BS an answer to fool her. She’d find out. No matter what.
Amos illustrated it like any other mother with an almost-cult-like gay following would: There are all-male couples, all-female couples and male-female couples. But, like the number pi, Natashya is an infinite cache of questions.
“She wanted to know: ‘Can two men have a baby?’ I said, ‘Well, they can adopt a baby.’ (Natashya said), ‘Well, then, who’s going to carry the baby in their tummy?’ So we talked about that. One answer brings 25,000 questions. So finally, you just have to say: ‘Tash, enough for today.'”
No question about it: Amos’ daughter would one day learn that mommy’s a queer magnet. After all, they practically come to her shows in rainbow-colored buses – like they will for her gig at 8 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Fox Theatre in Detroit – and root for queer-faves, according to Amos, like “Raspberry Swirl,” “Spark” and newbie “Teenage Hustling.”
Odds are they won’t get all of those. At least not in one night. Amos shakes up her set-list, knowing that some of her clique go from one show, to another, to another. This also allows the just-announced official bootlegs – called “Legs & Boots,” available on her Web site – to hold their own uniqueness.
“You really try and make it so that people don’t feel as if they’re getting just a repeat stock performance,” she says, adding that her extensive back catalog, including nine albums and a recently-released mammoth collection of rarities, allows her to do so.
“There are those moments where they (gay people) want the songs that’ll talk about their personal relationships; but sometimes, though, when they’re coming to a show, they’re bringing friends. (So) it’s a celebration.”
Playing piano bars in Washington during her troubled teen years lured a swarm of the local queers, who assisted her in the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Or at least tried to help her, she says. The raw Amos-opus “Little Earthquakes,” her solo debut released in 1992, recounts her sexual awakening, her struggle to establish her identity, and being sexually assaulted – hauntingly chronicled in “Me and a Gun.”
Now, 15 years later, “American Doll Posse” shows a confident Amos shifting between multiple-personalities, criticizing President Bush and calling herself a MILF – a “Mother I’d Like to Fuck.”
On sassy tune “Big Wheel,” the musician uses the naughty acronym, which was inspired by – get this – her then-13-year-old niece while vacationing at Amos’ Florida beach house. While waiting for her husband, sound engineer Mark Hawley, to fly in, her niece urged her to slip into a skimpy bikini. “She said, ‘Just put this on.’ And I said, ‘No,'” Amos recalls. “She said, ‘Come on! Come on! You’re a MILF! Start acting like it!'”
Acting obviously isn’t Amos’ issue. The posse women, modeled after Greek goddesses, are distinctive facets of her own personality. And she becomes them on her current tour, which began in May, before her two-hour sets. A duet between Pip and Santa on “Body and Soul” has been a staple of the shows; but when there’s only one Amos on stage, how does she become two people?
That’s why Santa – whose humor offers mindless entertainment, Amos notes – has taken over the tune. “Pip’s show is just loaded,” Amos says, explaining that Pip’s set – which includes “Waitress” and “Bliss” – just doesn’t allow for the honking number.
Clyde’s set is all about subtlety, while Isabel’s lively show does a number on the mind. “Your brain needs to hurt when she walks off stage,” Amos says.
The piano-master dons tailored outfits to replicate each guise, which makes her Halloween show on Oct. 30 in Pittsburgh so much easier: She doesn’t need to buy some flashy get-up. Nor does Natashya, who has her own wig and costume collection.
“(It’s about) stepping into other sides of the self that could very well be your life if you let it,” Amos says. “That’s kind of intriguing, ’cause you cock your head back and you think, ‘Yeah, this feels right.’ I could run off in my rubber tights and go work for Interpol and fight the sex slave network as Pip.”
Wouldn’t she miss Tori, though?
She coos, “I’ll miss all of them.”