Don’t judge a book by its cover. That’s the wisdom Tori Amos tried to impart to her 7-year-old daughter as the singer prepared for her “American Doll Posse” tour, which begins a three-night run in Oakland on Friday.
Viewing the elaborate wardrobe changes on their hangers, Natashya told her mom that she wants the hair on the dolls, and wants to talk about the characters, what she thinks of them and their songs.
Amos says, “Little girls have an amazing ability to role-play. It’s no dirty little secret when you’re 7 — they’re doctors one minute, teachers, models or singers the next.”
“Until somehow,” she sighs, “that gets beaten out of us and we step into an image and that is who we are.”
Amos has been concerned with female imagery recently — so worried that she practically penned a thesis on the subject on her new album, “American Doll Posse” (Epic), on which she assumes five guises based on Greek goddesses: Photographer Isabel (Artemis); somber Clyde (Persephone); teen hustler Pip (Athena); the slightly mad Santa (Aphrodite); and a Demeter/Dionysus-inspired alter ego of the keyboardist herself, also dubbed Tori.
One by one, the characters appear in such socio-political commentaries as “Big Wheel” and “Devils and Gods.” They pop up onstage, as well, sporting individual outfits.
“My objective wasn’t to turn myself into a physical creature that I’m not,” explains Amos, 44. “It’s more like Cindy Sherman — she’s working with what she has to work with and using her body as an instrument. So this was me using my body as a canvas to represent the internal work.”
Inside, the singer is seething. Femininity’s self-respecting image of Aphrodite has been damaged, she believes, perverted by everything from “Girls Gone Wild” videos to right-wing Christianity’s patriarchal view of womankind.
So Amos — a preacher’s daughter — pondered how she would combat such values.
“And the only way I can see is through their ideology,” she says. “I mean, Mary is a mother who is stripped of her sexuality, and the Magdalene is not allowed to be a prophet — she has the title of prostitute. And in Christianity, that’s all we get. So what’s the one thing that they just cannot accept, that they abhor? Women as mother-gods. So let’s bring on the mother-gods!”
For 15 years, the American-born, British-based composer (who maintains a Florida residence) has used her music to explore topical issues.
On her last U.S. tour, she sensed more important work was coming. “So I made a decision to observe as many American women as I could for my research. And I looked at really successful women in the corporate world, and they really had to almost amputate the seductive side of their being in order to fight in this man’s world.”
Compounding these findings were the Iraq war and global warming, guaranteeing that Amos plunged into “Posse” livid.
Her crusade has led her to this conclusion: “It’s up to each one of us women to start asking the right questions now. And I had to talk to women about what they were feeling in order for them to then say ‘OK — now that I’ve looked at my own personal life, I can look at how I feel about my own country, the world, and the rights for women in 10 years.’ I mean, seriously — where’s that going to be?”
IF YOU GO
Where: Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday
Tickets: $37.50 to $55
Contact: (415) 421-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com