A Love Letter To Live Music

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Tori Amos // Norwich Arts Centre, 1992 – Andrew Butcher

On a rainy February evening, a congregation of two hundred went to church. The preacher was a flame-haired American singer-songwriter. Her accompaniment was the orchestra of sound she exorcised from a solitary piano.

Vaulted ceilings and a dusty wooden floor provided a perfect backdrop for the sermon. Yet this was no evening of gentle musings delivered by a dutiful pastor. It was a performance full of passion, from ivory-key-pounding gospel anthems to whispered prayers. She sprinkled religious references like confetti, from the metaphorical use of crucifixion to cutting lyrics: “So you can make me cum / That doesn’t make you Jesus”. 

Her psalms explored a gamut of themes around modern womanhood, all beautifully delivered by the incredible symbiosis between preacher and instrument. We were rocked by a Led Zeppelin cover, then silenced by poignant personal reflections. Words fell around us like droplets of rain, as we re-lived her rape on a raw acapella rendition of ‘Me and A Gun’. When the piano fell silent, as a male heckler shouted a confession, the collective lack of forgiveness was palpable.

Churches bear witness to the whole range of human emotions and that evening provided them all. It felt unifying. But that night we didn’t find God. We found Tori Amos. 

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