My boyfriend has a line about seeing Tori Amos live: "Every man in the audience wanted to be her piano bench that night." Now, considering her gay male fanbase, I sort of doubt that. But there's no denying that in concert, Tori Amos can appear to be a sexual she-beast in the throes of multiple orgasm. She straddles her bench, tosses about her long, strawberry hair, writhes and arcs her back in ecstasy as she caresses the keys of that lucky black Bösendorfer piano. And yet, much like she does with her music, she can rein in all the histrionics for a spare, straightforward ballad, sung with chilling beauty. Amos' last albums have lacked the immediacy of Under the Pink and Little Earthquakes, which became a touchstone of elegant confessionalism for pretty much every female college student experimenting with leg hair. Her latest, The Beekeeper, is alluring but too cryptic and subdued; where she once shook us by the collar she is now content to hold us at arm's length. Fortunately, that isn't true of her piano bench.
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