Live at The Ryman

June 24, 2023 Review by Traci Turner

Iconic singer songwriter Tori Amos is on the road with her Ocean to Ocean tour, and before she hits SoCal, OC Music News caught the show in Nashville to give you a preview. Her massively loyal fanbase has been selling out venues across the country, but a few tickets remain for her show at the Greek.
An incredibly well-dressed crowd, many of whom appeared to have attended Nashville Pride festivities that day, filed into the landmark Ryman Auditorium. The morning of the show, only three seats were remaining, so I am going to say it was a sold-out show. Earlier in the week, the Tori Amos section of Reddit had multiple fans posting that they intended to attend solo so they could adequately experience Amos’ performance, and many stated they expected to be in tears through most of it. Indeed Amos brought the emotions that gave laughter… and some tears.
Starting the evening off were the Americana sounds of folk band Tow’rs. The trio hails from Flagstaff, Arizona and is comprised of husband and wife team, Gretta and Kyle Miller, and keyboardist Dan Bagle. As Kyle masterfully handled the guitar and vocals, Gretta harmonized nicely with him and showed off her multi-instrumental skills with keyboards, tambourine, shaker, and harmonica.

After introducing themselves, the Millers did a lovely duet for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.” They formed Tow’rs in 2014 and their most recent album, “Joy Alchemy,” was released this year. One of the tracks from the album is “Forgone,” which Gretta said was inspired by “processing change” and “letting go of something.”

Kyle commented on the excessive amount of party busses in Nashville (he’s not wrong) and told a cute story about their son losing a tooth while they were on tour. As their parents are watching their kids, Grandpa – playing the role of Tooth Fairy – recently gave their son $20 for a lost tooth. With that set as the precedent, Kyle joked that we should all buy some merch.
In closing, Tow’rs said they believe art has healing power and they hoped their set left us feeling hopeful. The crowd was very positive in their reception to Tow’rs and it set a nice mood for Tori Amos.

I confess I have not seen Amos live since 1999 and while I know her fans adore her and have a special bond, I was not prepared for the level of devotion I saw. Amos is a delicate voice with a piano; screaming was not on my radar for the night! As soon as the lights dropped, it began. Her band walked out and when the backing vocals of “God” began, the energy level increased exponentially. She wasn’t even on the stage yet and the cries were deafening! This was not a mellow crowd chilling for an evening of piano.

When the flash of Amos’ red hair first appeared, the audience was on their feet, applauding, yelling, cheering. Dressed in stars and stripes, and glittering heels, Amos became our own Lady Liberty. She sat at her piano and began to sing “God.” Any moment she stopped singing, she flipped her head toward the audience to peer at the devoted crowd, her hair flying. Immediate cheers would ring through the Ryman and fans showed their absolute love for Amos.

Accompanied by only a bassist and drummer, Amos finished “God” and drew rousing applause. She seemed overwhelmed at the intensity of the appreciation, gesturing thank you to the fans. “Oh my goodness! What else could be better than to be in the Mother Church during Pride?” She introduced bassist Jon Evans and drummer Ash Soan, and then transported us to the ocean for the title track of her 2021 album – and tour namesake – “Ocean to Ocean.” As she would do for the first of many songs, Amos straddled her piano bench to play the piano with her left hand and keyboards with her right, a microphone on each so she could sing at either side. Her voice – unaffected by the decades since I last saw her – sounded incredible.
Amos kept us under the sea through lighting and piano interludes throughout the evening, but a classic was up next and the crowd response vibrated the wooden pew I was seated upon. “Crucify,” from her breakthrough album, “Little Earthquakes,” had the crowd under her spell, which I would expect with it being one of her most popular songs. But even the songs off her latest album were drawing incredible responses, and in multiple moments of quiet, there were shouts of, “We love you Tori!” Through “Crazy,” “Mrs. Jesus,” and the bluesy, aptly titled “Lady in Blue,” the audience was all in on each song.

In between songs, Amos would flip through papers on her piano as if deciding what to play next, bounce between piano, keyboards, and mics, and make eye contact with fans when not singing. She spoke about the latest album and “making a record with the songs that didn’t make the record.”
Alone on stage without her band, Amos sat at the piano and sang “Cooling.” This is the part that gets me. I am always so awestruck by singers who can be so vulnerable, just… singing. No computer wizardry making it happen; just their voice in a room full of people. Honestly, that thought terrifies me (but I guess that’s why Tori Amos sells out venues and I don’t!).

The band returned and we continued through her incredible catalogue with “Upside Down,” “Mother Revolution,” “Taxi Ride,” “Fast Horse,” and “Sugar.” Amos showed much appreciation to Evans and Soan and each had a few solo showoff moments.
After saying goodnight and a brief time off stage, the two gentlemen returned to start “Cornflake Girl” before Amos returned, once again to loud cheers and screams. She closed the evening off with “Big Wheel” to thunderous applause.
There were teary faces, but lots of smiles as fans exited the Ryman and poured onto the crowded tourist area of Broadway in Nashville. Hopefully all fans eager to experience the religious moment of Amos and her music received what they were looking for.
To see Amos in person for yourself, try July 21 in Los Angeles at Greek Theatre. She will also be in San Diego on July 23rd at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay, but it is sold out.


by Stephanie Pepper Photography



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