Y Kant Sammy J Read
February 23, 2012 6:24 PM   Subscribe

Sessions at West 54th aired for a few years on American public television in the late 1990s, featuring live sets and interviews with musicians. The February 1999 show featured Tori Amos as the guest, performing both solo and with a band. David Byrne, who had himself previously performed, both hosted and interviewed Tori about her music, her life, and her work as co-founder of RAINN. Full setlists from both performances and David Byrne's sartorial wonders inside. posted by Panjandrum (22 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
i had this on a vhs tape. glad to see it's all online.
posted by nadawi at 6:30 PM on February 23, 2012

I have very fond memories of rigging a VHS player to output audio to my tape deck in order to record these songs onto cassette tapes I could play in my car. The audio quality was awful, but this set was so worth the effort.

Finding this online for me was kind of like finding a fully manned and rigged sailboat on the other side of the deserted island, after already building a raft from vines and palm trees.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:37 PM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

His shirt is... on fire?

Now I wish my eyes were on fire.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:38 PM on February 23, 2012

I was in the audience for the taping of the Kronos Quartet episode - fun experience to be right there with the musicians - and Mr. Byrne holding court. (And yes, the studio was right on West 54th Street.)

(Was that the late 90s? It feels like just a couple of years ago... arrgh)
posted by mark7570 at 6:45 PM on February 23, 2012

Love the Ben Folds Five Sessions at West 54th DVD-right before they crested in the public consciousness, right around the release of Whatever and Ever Amen, my favorite album in the whole world. They play the songs with fresh, 'this is the new stuff!' enthusiasm. I enjoy watching it regularly.
posted by Kwine at 6:50 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

John Prine's Session is one of the greatest things ever.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:04 PM on February 23, 2012

Tricky's set on this was fantastic, if memory serves. Moby's on the other hand, was one of the worst things ever.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:07 PM on February 23, 2012

I have been looking for ages for that performance of Psycho Killer. I vividly remember Byrne gave one of the most compelling performances I ever saw. I also remember how much I hated the spastic dancing of his backup singer, she was totally out of sync with the rest of the performance. Byrne was moving slowly with deliberate precision, standing there with his skin stripped away, while she's jumping all over the place and upstaging his performance. Now that I see the performance again, it looks like the cameraman was trying to keep her out of the shot.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:15 PM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Bonus dubbed out ambient Rabbit In the Moon remix of Precious Things.
posted by empath at 7:21 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, this is cool... Tori up until Choirgirl Hotel was fascinating to me. After that she kind of went THIS way while I went THAT way, although I still respect her tremendously as an artist. I should probably catch up with her sometime and see if I was simply wrong about her all these years or if she really did actually go OVER THERE.

Anyway, she does Take To The Sky? I love when artists perform b-sides. That's such a great song. That alone will have me watching these videos.

Thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 7:25 PM on February 23, 2012

Yeah, Boys for Pele is still one of my favorite albums of all time and I don't think I can overstate how much of an impact she had on me in my early 20s. She's probably one of the major reasons I'm a liberal right now, since she was my introduction to feminism, etc, and it was my fandom of both her and NIN that got me to reach past my suburban heavy-metal background to make friends with 'queer' kids and just people in underground music scenes in general when I was in college. Plus dancing at a goth club to Armand van Helden's remix of "Professional Widow" was the first time I got what dance music was all about, which opened up a whole other world to me.

I didn't really follow her much after Choirgirl Hotel since I basically went purely to dance music after that, either, but yeah, definitely one of my favorite music artists of all time.
posted by empath at 7:36 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

What a great post. Sessions on west 54th was one of those "this is why public television exists". I absolutely loved that show.
posted by roboton666 at 7:50 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I played Little Earthquakes on repeat for hours when I was in high school. I'm with empath, exposure to Tori Amos was a big step in my own education away from religious conservatism, much to my family's chagrin I'm sure.

David Byrne's always a hoot, too.
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:51 PM on February 23, 2012

Watching David Byrne interviewing somebody is almost as weird as it can get. The only thing weirder is David Byrne interviewing himself.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:53 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Let's just take it as a given that David Byrne has the unique ability to raise the awkward/weird level in the room to critical, no matter what he's doing.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:17 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know, there's the P. J. Harvey interview and the Phish interview too. So Byrne has kind of a reputation for being an awkward interviewer.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:22 PM on February 23, 2012

Had the good fortune to see her in San Francisco while she was touring after the release of... either Pele or Under The Pink--I can't remember which now because I am old and enfeebled. Anyway, it was just her and a piano, and she was like a force of nature. She gets chuckled at for being fey or twee or whatever... but good Lord, her voice is like something primal.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:31 PM on February 23, 2012

Like a lot of the people commenting above, I gave up on Tori a while ago, but those first three albums are unfuckwithable.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:54 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I saw her on PBS a few months ago. I didn't recognize half the songs, but she's still got it.

(I, too, lost interest after Choirgirl. Her later stuff always seemed toned down and generic by comparison.)
posted by dirigibleman at 9:03 PM on February 23, 2012

"Anyway, she does Take To The Sky? I love when artists perform b-sides."

It was a pretty regular song even on her most recent tour according to my Tori-worshipping SO.
posted by PenDevil at 11:35 PM on February 23, 2012

The Best of Sessions at West 54th sold me on DVD. According to Amazon I bought my own copy in december '99

I can't recommend this DVD enough to anyone who loves music performance. (I would gladly buy full length DVDs of EACH sessions episode)


posted by DigDoug at 7:15 AM on February 24, 2012

Okay, so I finally got the time to watch these.

And very cool! I saw the Choirgirl Hotel tour with this exact lineup (the last time I saw Tori, after having seen her with her piano on both the Little Earthquakes and Under The Pink tours, the first in a TINY venue and the second in a medium-sized club thing). That last show was an arena tour, and I was captivated by how well the band expanded her sound and how really well the old material worked in the new settings.

Anyway, I'm sorry it took me so long to watch. Thanks, again, for posting this!
posted by hippybear at 6:17 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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