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Welcome To Sunny Florida, is a live DVD and bonus CD realise, from the musical sensation that is Tori Amos, which co-incided with The Scarlet's Walk album and tour. Released in 2004, it was Amos's first DVD release since "Live at Montreux" in 1992 and the Rainn charity concert from 1996. It was filmed during the last show in her Scarlet's Walk world tour, in West Palm beach Florida. The DVD features 179 minutes of pure musical entertainment from the American singer songwriter, who has been playing piano since she was two and a half.
The show features a colourful mixture of tracks from Scarlet's Walk, and also Amos's other albums, including Little Earthquakes to Under the Pink and Boys for Pele. The action kicks off with a behind the scenes look at the tour and the crew, before Tori emerges on stage. Tori, her two year old daughter, and her crew then proceed to join hands and sing ring a ring a roses, as drummer Matt Chamberlain, and bassist Jon Evans, proceed with the opening bars of "A Sorta Fairytale". The music begins, and the crowd simultaneously give an overwhelming cheer as Tori emerges, bowing down to the audience, in salute to her Native American heritage, again in reference to the themes behind "Scarlet's Walk". The atmosphere is now set for the electric and captivating performance that is about to unfold.
After the reminiscence of "A Sorta Fairytale" as an opener, comes the wild, dark and exuberant piano intro to "Sugar" - a song that covers dark themes throughout, and was apparently written as it was due to be recorded, inspired by the death of Freddie Mercury. It's a song which shows the full range of Amos's vocals, as it begins in a growling husky deep tones "Don't say morning's come, don't say it's up to me", as opposed to the much higher and brighter notes later in the song.
Amos's old favourite "Cornflake Girl" also makes a stunning appearance in the show, and has a very full, decorative sound with the band accompanying it. It is introduced with an improv about "what she will do next week", once she is back home "doing her laundry" and sending her daughter to school. Although Cornflake Girl is played pretty much at every show when the band are on tour with her, it still is an energetic rendition and probably one of the best recorded renditions within the Scarlet's Walk era.
The 21 song setlist really does take you on a journey, Scarlet's journey. The songs played on the setlist (which changes from show to show, depending on the city and the requests from fans), really do take you to a place of healing, understanding and infact cover many emotions and responses you would expect from a Tori Amos record. From the dark lyrical content on Bells for her "Can't stop, what's coming, can't stop what's on it's way", to the riveting transition within Take to The Sky into a track called Mohammed My Friend (Boys for Pele), which all in all, makes for an exhilarating musical performance that is heartfelt and energetic throughout.
Towards the end of the main setlist, "Amber waves", features a surprising intro, comprising of a beautiful, Mozart worthy piano solo which is purely improvisational and really would give even the greatest pieces of classical music a run for their quavers. Amos plays this with such soul and convention, that it's not difficult to see why she was awarded a place at a prestigious music school aged just five.
One thing I really enjoy about Welcome To Sunny Florida, as with all live performances of Tori's, is the fact the sounds seem so much richer and diverse. This is not a pop concert whereby autotuning is a necessity. This is three, incredibly talented musicians playing the songs with an incredible sense of musicality and even improvising new songs right there on the spot. The classics are given a revamp, for example "Crucify" has this drawn out introduction, which consists of a melodic yet deeply atmospheric baseline played by Jon Evans, with the combination of Matt Chamberlains electronic drum sounds and Tori's soulful vocals taking the realms until the chorus comes in. It gives a magical sense of ambiance, very realistic to being at the show itself, and never fails to remind me of this nostalgia I often travel the world to experience for myself.
Perhaps a talking point of this DVD, was the fact certain lyrics were censored within the mix, particularly in songs such as "Professional Widow". Tori herself has since explained this was so the younger generation still had access to her music as she didn't want a higher guidance rating in place, so that it was accessible to all. As much as I applaud her for this, I personally would have preferred the "naughty" words to have stayed in, as this is more true to the live shows in particular where no word or issue, is ever censored.
Welcome to Sunny Florida, also contains bonus footage which includes an interview with Tori's parents, which I personally feel is a really nice addition, particularly how they touch on how they discovered Tori's gift and encouraged her at a young age, and the challenges this brought what with Tori's father being a minister, and him having to accompany her to play in "Mr Smiths" - the local gay bar aged 13, just to get a foot on the ladder. There is also interview footage of Tori and the band, as they give thoughts of reflection and inspiration on the tour and the music they so have so passionately delivered each night, whilst on the road.
Another treat for fans with this release, is the bonus CD entitled "Scarlet's Hidden treasures", which contains 5 bonus tracks from Scarlet's Walk, which are not included on the album itself. Usually, bonus tracks are often pointless fillers which are not strong enough to stand on their own. This simply isn't the case, infact it contains a body of work which have continued to be played regularly even on the more recent tours. From the stunning "Indian Summer" and "Ruby through the looking glass", to "Bug a Martini" and the delectable "Tombigbee", this really is a treat for fans and newcomers to Amos's music alike.
Overall, Welcome to Sunny Florida is a fascinating insight into the artist that Tori Amos, and gives an idea of the experience you are likely to receive at one of her shows. Although many may not remember Tori from her 90's heyday, or indeed will probably not have even heard of her in the first place, I would thoroughly recommend purchasing this DVD. Even those who have watched it with me, who are not particularly Tori Amos fans, tell me that they genuinely found it a captivating watch and some even asked to borrow the DVD off me. There are many era's of her career that are musically catered for, so it's not especially imposing or at all like a typical, over rehearsed "pop concert". It's literally is 3 musicians at their best, playing what is in my opinion, some of the finest music ever written.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Ruby through the Looking-Glass
3 Bug a Martini
4 Apollo?s Frock
6 Indian Summer
Disc #2 Tracklisting
3 Interlude #1
4 Cornflake Girl
5 Bells for Her
7 Take To The Sky
9 Cloud On My Tongue
10 Interlude #2
12 your cloud
13 Father Lucifer
14 Professional Widow
15 Interlude #3
16 I can?t see New York
17 Precious Things
19 Amber Waves
20 Hey Jupite