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Tori Amos at the Olympia: ‘It’s great to be in Dublin. You love people who understand guilt and shame’

The American singer is in snarling, stomping form and delivers a set dripping with emotional gore

Tori Amos

3Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Early in her career Tori Amos was lazily compared to Kate Bush and now that wheel has turned full circle. Bush became every Gen Zer’s favourite ethereal touchstone when Running Up That Hill soundtracked Stranger Things. Twelve months later, social media is full of predictions of a revival for Amos, a torchbearer for 1990s angst pop, following the appearance of her 1994 hit Cornflake Girl on cannibal-themed teen drama Yellowjackets.

The Tori-naissance may yet come to pass. Either way, Amos is in snarling, stomping form and, on the first of two sell-out nights at the Olympia, delivers a set dripping with emotional gore. Wedged between an imperious Bösendorfer piano and a stack of keyboards, she starts a grippingly cathartic evening with God, a power ballad in which she accuses the all-powerful creator of suffering an excess of toxic masculinity.

Dressed in riotous purple, she regards the audience half playfully, half sternly through oversized spectacles. “It’s great to be in Dublin. For a preacher’s daughter, you love people who understand guilt and shame,” declares Amos, the product of a strict methodist household in Maryland.

In the 1990s, Amos was a peer of PJ Harvey, and Björk and Sinéad O’Connor – women who didn’t have time for the patriarchy and whose music celebrated feminism as a path to true artistic freedom. This year marks the 21st anniversary of her last truly essential album, Scarlet’s Walk. She plays edited highlights, including the single A Sorta Fairytale.


This she expands into a proggy epic with the assistance of bassist Jon Evans and drummer Ash Soan. It’s a heady chunk of Americana into which she smuggles an anecdote about a boorish Oliver Stone offering her the lead role in Natural Born Killers. She turned him down and the part went to Juliette Lewis, currently spearheading a comeback of her own in Yellowjackets.

Amos’s connections with Ireland run deep. She kept a holiday home near Kinsale for many years; her latest LP, 2021′s Ocean to Ocean, contains a surprising shout-out to Skibbereen. Meanwhile, her 1996 masterpiece Boys For Pele was partly recorded down the road from the Olympia, in a church in Delgany, Co Wicklow.

Dublin was also the scene of one of her most memorable shows, she reveals. In 1994, still reeling from the death of her generational and artistic soulmate Kurt Cobain, she covered Smells Like Teen Spirit at “the boxing ring” – aka the National Stadium – and was moved when the room sang along. She reprises that moment here with a stately and haunting take on the grunge classic, her voice curling into a growl as she negotiates the chorus.

If Gen Z is to fall for Tori, then the gothically irascible Cornflake Girl will be the tune to do it. With admirable mischievousness, she drops the song from her Dublin setlist – having played it in Belfast the previous night. She instead finishes with the tempestuous Precious Things. Confirming Amos as the spikier missing link between Carole King and Alanis Morissette, it’s a raw cry for sexual freedom featuring a descending piano line that hits like tectonic plates crashing together.

Up front, hardcore Tori-philes don’t know whether to rush the stage or break down sobbing. Thanks to Yellowjackets, a Running Up That Hill-style revival may well be on the way. But for her fans, the Tori-naissance is already in full swing.

Ed Power

Ed Power

Ed Power, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about television and other cultural topics