Visual art gives rise to Tori Amos’ sound 

click to enlarge Tori Amos
  • COURTESY AMARPAUL KALIRAI
  • After recording two classical albums, singer-songwriter Tori Amos has a new pop CD, “Unrepentant Grenadines.”
Turning 49 wasn’t easy for the usually calm, easygoing keyboardist Tori Amos. But hitting 50 last year was even worse. A pep talk from her 13-year-old daughter Tash, who urged her to not rest on her laurels but to tour with the same unbridled energy she wielded two decades ago, was what snapped her out of her funk. “She laid down the law and said ‘Go be at the height of your magical powers and just rock!’” says the singer, who decided to do just that with a tour that comes to Oakland this week. The show celebrates the CD “Unrepentant Geraldines,” a return to her signature pop form following two classical recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, 2011’s “Night of Hunters” and 2012’s “Gold Dust.”

On the “Geraldines” cover, you’re clutching a paintbrush, next to a mural. Have you started painting?

No. It’s metaphorical. It’s sonic painting – I paint with sounds. So no visual artist has to worry about losing their day job to moi. It’s just a nod to the visual artists that we all know and love.

What techniques did you borrow from painters for this album?

Well, I think it’s about hearing their paintings. When I can hear a painting, then I’m beginning to get it.

Do you haunt museums?

I’ve gone to museums all over the world over the last five years. But I also get art books everywhere I am, and I take them with me on the tour bus.

How did Cezanne inspire the track “16 Shades of Blue”?

I didn’t get Cezanne for the longest time. And then I was looking at his painting “The Black Marble Clock” and I started hearing the rhythms which became that song. So these song structures were inspired by paintings – I would look at something and hear it, not see it.

Are you a museumgoer who just sits on a bench, staring at a single masterpiece?

Maybe. But I walk around a lot, too. I think I’m the person that paces – I walk around and then come back to things.

What other art or artists fascinated you?

A lot of Impressionists from the 19th century. And the song “Weatherman” was inspired by that – by painters that would go out into nature and paint. And “Maids of Elfen-Mere” was a Rossetti drawing that I saw and thought “OK, you have a tale to tell me.”

Did you catch any exhibits in San Francisco your last times through?

You want the truth? I went to the SFMOMA bookstore because I didn’t have much time, and I bought loads of books. If you only 35, 40 extra minutes in a town? Grab the art books! That’s what I say!

IF YOU GO

Tori Amos

Where: Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland

When: 8 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $57.50 to $73.65

Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

About The Author

Tom Lanham

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