In 1991, a then unknown artist named Tori Amos released a CD called "Little Earthquakes." Led by the hypnotic first single "Silent All These Years," the album immediately captured the attention of critics and, thanks to an imaginative video for "Silent" that subsequently went into heavy rotation on MTV, mainstream radio too. The reaction was unanimous -- here was an intense, original and uncompromising new artist who seemed almost guaranteed to have a long and indelible career. Indeed, a half-dozen albums later, Amos may not have reached quite the commercial peak expected, but she has amassed a sparkling discography of diverse recordings and easily commands one of the most devoted audiences in music.
Performing off the back of "Little Earthquakes," Amos would give two performances at Montreux only a year apart. Eagle Vision presents these snapshots of Amos' early career here as 'Live at Montreux 1991/1992.' Long before she introduced a backing band into the mix on subsequent tours, it was just her and her piano and the most minimal stageset imaginable. There are no gimmicks, no fist-pumping, no hard sell.
It is to Amos' great credit that she manages to be as riveting as she is using only her hands, her voice, and her striking facial features. Amos is a performer who never phones it in -- she appears to feel every word, and play every note with conviction. The rawest moments of her best songs, particularly "Crucify," "Silent All These Years" and the stark rape confessional "Me and a Gun," are like confrontations hurled at the audience. Amos is passionate without lapsing into the "angry young woman" cliche that has saddled the careers of similar female artists (Alanis Morrissette, anyone?), and at times her music merges with emotion and elevates it to the level of the spiritual.
Of the two performances, there is some crossover in the tracklists. Some of Amos' most famous songs, including "Silent All These Years," "Crucify" and the gorgeous 'Winter" are given almost identical treatment, so there is little variance to the material. Of the two performances however, '1992' enjoys the more diverse and interesting selections, as we get the controversial "Me and a Gun" plus unique covers of "Whole Lotta Love" and (seriously) "Smells Like Teen Spirit." But again, the sameness of the musical approach means there is little diversity here, and Eagle Vision may have been wiser to pair one of these Montreux performances with a later Amos concert, as the singer would subsequently incorporate more varied musicians on future tours.
'Live at Montreux 1991/1992,' however, is ultimately geared towards the die hard Amos disciple. As it concentrates so largely on the singer's "Little Earthquakes" album, it is more like a well-recorded bootleg than an evocative live capsule of the singer's full range and back catalog. Still, fans do get two performances for the price of one, and without a doubt, Amos' very unique and courageous voice shines through in every one of these songs.
The tracklist is as follows. For 1991: 01. Silent All These Year / 02. Precious Things / 03. China / 04. Crucify / 05. Leather / 06. Song For Eric / 07. Upside Down / 08. Happy Phantom / 09. Winter / 10. Thank You
For 1992: 01. Little Earthquakes / 02. Crucify / 03. Silent All These Years / 04. Precious Things / 05. Happy Phantom / 06. Whole Lotta Love / 07. Me And A Gun / 08. Winter / 09. Smells Like Teen Spirit
Eagle Vision presents both the 1991 and 1992 programs of 'Tori Amos: Live at Montreux' in 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 video (1.78:1). Unusual for a concert recording done so long ago, both originated on HD video, and have held up surprisingly well over the years.
I expected a noisier, less detailed picture than what I got here. Though Amos' live presentation is utterly dull (just her and her piano on a bare, black stage with basic lighting), colors are very well saturated and surprisingly tight and clean. There is some noise (particularly in darker areas of the picture) but it's rarely distracting. Detail -- particularly close-ups -- is excellent, with wider shots a bit less impressive. Black levels and contrast are in tune throughout. Only some slight artifacting is noticeable (a bit of break-up in the shadows). 'Tori Amos: Live at Montreux' is hardly a live spectacular, but this transfer is likely as nice as it could have been.
Audio options are likewise consistent over the entire of 'Tori Amos: Live at Montreux.' Offered are DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit), PCM 2.0 Stereo (2.3mbps) and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (448kbps).
I found the inclusion of 5.1 mixes entirely superfluous. With only Amos' voice and her piano, there isn't a single musical sound distributed to the rears (only some very slight bleed was audible to me with my ear pressed near the back speakers). Polite crowd noise between songs is the only noticeable surround element. Otherwise, the DTS-MA sounds a bit brighter in the highs than the PCM, though I preferred the more natural and warm sound of the latter. Low bass rarely moves the subwoofer, as the majority of Amos' piano playing and vocal range is much higher. As it should be, Amos' voice is front and center, though I did find her tendency to sing very close to the mic caused the vocals to boom, though this is inherent in the source. In any case, the recording sounds perfectly clean and free of distortion. Considering the material, 'Live at Montreux' is a perfectly nice audio presentation.
Sadly, there is not a single supplement. Not even a discography.
'Tori Amos: Live at Montreux 1991/1992' is about as straightforward a music Blu-ray as they come. The performances simply involve a singer and her piano, with minimal flair, and the same goes for the disc. The video and audio are nice, but there's nary a single supplement. The $24.99 MSRP ain't bad, but unless your a die hard Tori fan you could probably get by with just a rental.