#ArtBlog 43: Touring With Tori

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November 2009:

The month I was the Australian national tour support for Tori Amos: A tale of cold summer nights and reading up a bit late in the piece.

Ray Mann x Tori Amos 2009A soul musician seemed like an odd choice for the Tori Amos support to me (and, apparently, to some reviewers too), but it’s not like I was going to say ‘no’. Truth be told, even being considered for the spot was a wonderful change; being regarded, for a change, not as a “funk” musician, but as a singer/songwriter.

Ray Mann x Tori Amos 2009This tour saw me playing to 2,000 people a night, in venues like the Sydney Opera House – the biggest stages I’d played in my career up to that point (the equally huge Rev. Al Green tour wasn’t until two months after this), and I was performing solo in these massive theatres. Add to that the vast difference in style between my music and Tori’s – and her audience is loyal, they love her – so I was feeling pretty out-of-my-depth going in. Surprisingly, the response I got from Tori’s audiences was so warm, well beyond anything I’d dared hope – to the point where some nights, I almost forgot it wasn’t my show.

Ray Mann x Tori Amos 2009Backstage however, the mood throughout the tour was fairly somber. Apart from Tori’s accompanying road manager and the guys doing my sound, who were lovely, the rest of the touring party only began to thaw toward me by the end of the tour. Whether they thought I was a kid who might get overexcited and run amok backstage, or if that’s just the attitude big promoters generally take to anonymous support acts, who knows (the Rev tour was a party by comparison); I certainly wasn’t made to feel like I’d actually earned my presence there.

Ray Mann x Tori Amos 2009Halfway through the tour, on the night of the first Opera House show, Tori’s road manager told us this was the night I’d meet Tori, and to hang about after the show. My dressing room was halfway along the hall between Tori’s dressing room and the exit, and as Tori came past with her family, I approached her to say hi. A bodyguard inserted herself between me and Tori like the Star Wars blast door, with her hand was raised in front of my chest: “Can I help you?” I told her, “I just wanted to say ‘hi’ to Tori.” No response. “Erm… I played tonight”, and pointed to my dressing room behind me. The bodyguard still didn’t move herself or her hand. Tori’s road manager saw me and said, “Oh there you are!” and only then did the bodyguard step aside. Tori said hi and promised to watch me play one night, and they left. That night I went home and looked up old media about Tori on the web, and inevitably came across the story of her being raped by a fan after a show, an experience which came to redefine both Tori and her music.

Ray Mann x Tori Amos 2009Throughout the tour, Tori and her family mostly kept to themselves backstage – not so unusual from what I’ve seen and heard of big artists on tour, but it meant that I only saw her once more, towards the end of the tour, when we literally crossed paths at one point. It was polite, slightly awkward chit-chat anyone could have, hardly the free-flowing exchange between artists I’d perhaps fantasised there might be. Even getting that one photo with her was a little awkward – you can probably see it:

Ray Mann x Tori Amos 2009

During the tour, I started reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which I fell in love with mere pages in. It wasn’t until weeks after the tour was over, however, that I discovered the Tori / Neil connection. To think I could have been talking comics, dreams and Delirium with Tori Amos while on tour with her… ah well.
Ray Mann x Tori Amos 2009.