For hardcore Tori Amos fans, her current tour in support of her latest album, Unrepentant Geraldines, has been a goldmine of deep album tracks, beloved singles, and catalog obscurities. She’s played "Pirates"—a song from her cult 80s drama-pop band Y Kant Tori Read—for the first time and debuted the slipshod electronic cut "Zero Point". But the real highlight of her solo piano trek across has been the so-called Lizard Lounge portion of the show: a long-standing bit during which Amos performs a random assortment of covers.
While she’s performed some of them before—Led Zeppelin's "Thank You," Joni Mitchell's "A Case Of You," tracks from her 2001 covers album Strange Little Girls, the list goes on—she’s been mostly throwing curveballs at the audiences, treating them to unexpected covers of Rihanna, t.A.t.u, and Beyonce.
Amos’ weird cover streak is another reminder that the already-offbeat artist’s playful side has increasingly come out in the later years of her career, as she’s become less beholden to commercial restraints and freer to follow her muses. She’s clearly in a happy place—the fan-shot footage from this tour shows her having fun with her back catalog and other people’s songs—and that shows in her confidence on-stage.
At a recent Cleveland show, where she performed a surprise version of Nine Inch Nails' "Something I Can Never Have," towards the end of the song, she gave one final shriek, threw her head back and posed stock-still for a few seconds. It was an exaggerated move that was immensely satisfying as a dramatic gesture, but also a perfect exclamation point on a performance Amos knew she nailed.
Here are 11 more covers Amos has gifted the world with on tour.
Prince - "Little Red Corvette"/ Shakespears Sister - "Stay"
When in Minneapolis, it's de rigueur for an artist to pay homage to Prince. Amos does it better than most, however: This languid version of "Little Red Corvette" is desperate, sensual and full of longing. Plus, icing on the cake? The song goes right into a skyscraping cover of Shakespears Sister's "Stay," a big hit right around the release of Amos' debut, Little Earthquakes .
Nine Inch Nails - "Something I Can Never Have"
In Cleveland, Amos induced chills by nodding to old pal Trent Reznor, who got his start playing in goofy synthrock and cover bands in the city. This cover of a Pretty Hate Machine slow-burn, however, seethes with boiling anger and snarling frustration.
t.A.T.u. - "Not Gonna Get Us"
Many of Amos' covers in the Lizard Lounge have ties to where she's playing on a particular night. Naturally, when she recently visited Russia, she worked up a version of the underrated t.A.T.u. empowerment anthem "Not Gonna Get Us," complete with a sampled disco beat and a few Russian lyrics thrown in for good measure.
A mashup of her song "Crazy" and Beyoncé's "Crazy In Love"
What's a sure-fire way to win over a crowd? Try a rare airing of a Scarlet's Walk album cut and then bust out some Beyoncé. Bonus points for doing this in Bey's home state of Texas.
Kansas - "Dust In The Wind"/ Toto - "Africa"
Only Tori can make an overblown classic rock mothball such as "Dust In The Wind" sound meaningful. Counterintuitively, the sappy segue into Toto's "Africa" further redeems the song.
Wham! featuring George Michael - "Careless Whisper"
"Careless Whisper" is at once melancholy and unnerving. Even without the iconic saxophone melody, Amos manages to amplify the creepy factor and melodrama inherent in the tune.
Rihanna - "We Found Love"
In Amos' hands, this frothy dance hit turns into an ominous slice of gothic cabaret pop – and becomes a cautionary tale which hints that perhaps finding love isn't all hearts, stars and happily-ever-afters.
Barry Manilow - "Copacabana"
Amos got her start playing in piano and gay bars—which is pretty obvious from this solemn, Lawrence Welk-caliber schmaltzfest of a cover. That she does the jaunty tune in a straightforward fashion only intensifies the humorous overtones.
Björk - "Hyperballad"/ Dead Or Alive - "You Spin Me Round"
Her ethereal, almost operatic take on "Hyperballad" is a long-time live staple. But mashing that up with Under The Pink's "Cloud On My Tongue" and then an eerie, synth-spackled take on Dead Or Alive's "You Spin Me Round?" Next level.
Metallica - "Nothing Else Matters"
Amos has already tackled Slayer with no fear, and so her reclamation of Metallica's sensitive-metal-dude dirge is not only credible – it almost rivals the original in quality.
Duran Duran - "Rio"
On this current tour, Amos seems like she's having more fun on stage than she has in years. Exhibit A: She gets downright sassy and animated on a torchy, synth-darkened version of the new wave classic.
Cyndi Lauper - "Time After Time"
The only surprising thing about this lovely, faithful Cyndi Lauper cover is that Amos has never covered the ballad before.
Annie Zaleski is ready and waiting for Tori to release another album of covers. She's on Twitter - @anniezaleski.
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