DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Tori Amos – Live At Montreux 1991/1992, Blu-ray (2008)

Rare early footage from Tori Amos live at Montreux

Published on December 2, 2008

Tori Amos – Live At Montreux 1991/1992, Blu-ray (2008)
Tori Amos – Live At Montreux 1991/1992, Blu-ray (2008)
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment EVBRD 33322-9

Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color

Audio: English DTS Master Audio 5.1, Dolby 5.1, PCM Stereo

Length: 90 minutes

Rating: ***1/2

When Tori Amos first hit the mainstream scene in the ninties, she quickly found a captive audience of rabid fans with her strong original songs that were highly personal but didn’t shy from many of the hot button issues of the day. She also was fond of tossing in the occasional cover, like really gripping offerings of songs by artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin or Nirvana; her version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the Crucify EP cast the song in a completely different light from the Nirvana original. Her completely unusual approach to playing the piano was also quite captivating for many; she kind of straddles the piano bench, constantly facing the audience while she performs, and while her playing doesn’t seem to suffer from the contortions she goes through, you sometimes can’t help but feel that her stylings at the keyboard are enhanced by a very large measure of visual theatrics.

The two sets documented here come from successive years at the Montreux Jazz Festival and are solo performances that are apparently from a developmental period in her career before she had reached much of a mainstream audience. I guess if you’re a totally rabid fan, then you probably couldn’t get enough of Tori in all her solo rawness; I would have much preferred at least one of these sets to include a full band to add a much needed measure of weightiness to some of the songs. Yes, many of the songs are quite poignantly delivered with just voice and piano accompaniment, but some of the songs really demand a little more instrumentation to achieve their full impact. However, Tori Amos is obviously in her element solo; at one point she stops playing, and chides audience members who are obviously talking through the performance.

While I do like much of her body of work, I’ve always felt that she was a little too self-important in her approach, and this instance only validated that theory for me. Here’s an artist whose record company is trying to develop an audience for her, and yet she’s lambasting the concert crowd for talking during her performance? And what really killed the whole deal for me was the overlap of songs between performances; once again, true fans will probably rejoice at the excess, but the overall effect for me was more than a little tiresome. An Audiophile Audition reader has suggested that the availability of these concerts on Blu-ray is for Tori Amos fans the equivalent of discovering high quality video of the Beatles’ Star Club appearances in Hamburg. While I appreciate his sentiments and his passion for Tori Amos, I personally just can’t agree with theoretically placing her on the same pedestal as the Beatles – that for me is almost heresy.

In technical terms, the disc is really quite good, although the DTS Master Audio 5.1 had precious little coming from the surrounds, but what do you expect from a solo artist, anyway? The image quality was good, as well, although her choice of lighting gave a very “blue” cast to just about everything, but for a really dark concert video, the contrast and detail were quite acceptable. True fans will find this Blu-ray disc indispensable, but for the rest of us a rental is probably more than enough.

TrackList: 1991: Silent All These Years; Precious Things; China; Crucify; Leather; Song For Eric; Upside Down; Happy Phantom; Winter; Thank You. 1992: Little Earthquakes; Crucify; Silent All These Years; Precious Things; Happy Phantom; Whole Lotta Love/Thank You; Me And A Gun; Winter; Smells Like Teen Spirit.

 – Tom Gibbs

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