Connect with us

Miscellaneous

Night of Tori

Genre-shifting singer brings her ‘Hunters’ tour to D.C. Monday

Published

on

Tori Amos’s new album ‘Night of Hunters’ explores the demise of a relationship in a song cycle based on musical themes from the classical masters. (Photo courtesy Live Nation)

 

Tori Amos
‘Night of Hunters World Tour’
Monday at 8 p.m.
DAR Constitution Hall
1776 D St., N.W.
$46.50-$57.65
800-745-3000
toriamos.com
ticketmaster.com

 

Ahhhh Tori. How she likes to keep us guessing.

The creatively restless singer, who released current album “Night of Hunters” in September on the classical label Deutsche Grammophon, is touring the complex concept album now with a show that brings her Monday to Washington at her usual concert spot — DAR Constitution Hall, where she played for her “Sinful Attraction Tour” (2009) and “American Doll Posse World Tour” (2007) among other jaunts.

Tickets were still available as of Blade press time. Prior to leaving on the tour, which kicked off in late September in Finland and has found her in both Russia and South Africa in addition to her usual European stops (she opened in the U.S. this week in Philadelphia), Amos, 48, spent time by phone from her Florida home to talk about the album, the tour, her gay fans and how she maintains such precision at the piano.

WASHINGTON BLADE: After many years with Atlantic, you’ve recorded for several big labels in the last 10 years or so and now, rather unexpectedly, this new album is for Deutsche Grammophon. Is this industry tumultuousness, logistics, your choice or what?

TORI AMOS: A lot of people have common bonds who were at these labels and what’s funny, well, not funny, but Doug Morris who was running Atlantic when I was there, so he would say, “Tori, I didn’t leave, they forced me out.” He left this year to go to Sony, so I think people do jump around depending on who the people are at any given time. For me, I’d fulfilled my commitment to Universal and … Deutsche Grammophon kind of tracked me down and Dr. Alex Buhr said, “Look, I know you’re working on a musical, but I think you should consider a 21st century song cycle based on classical themes.” I was like, “Are you serious, that’s a very tall order.” He said, “Don’t you want a challenge, don’t you want to do something different?” I said, “Well nobody has approached me,” so he said, “Deutsche Grammophon wants you to try this.” I thought how many times in life do you get offered something like this with the support of one of the great classical labels of all time? I said, “OK, you’re going to have to send me lots and lots of good music, loads of classical music.” So “Night of Hunters” is really based on themes from classical music over the last 400 years.

BLADE: What kind of instrumentation will you use for the tour?

AMOS: We’re going out with a string quartet and that just seemed to make sense. They play with such a high caliber that it was really quite tempting. And yet they’re very young, in their late 20s and early 30s so they’re very passionate about their playing and I thought this would be a good balance. They’re so passionate about classical music and early 20th century music and they played on the record. So then I thought why not arrange some of the catalogue just for strings, piano and vocal and so we’re doing some of the older songs in that configuration. We’re just starting some of that now. Once we get to America, we should have more in our repertoire.

BLADE: You’re well known for varying your set list from night to night. When you have songs like the ones from this new album or, say, another concept album like “Scarlet’s Walk,” is it problematic sequencing them with others into a live show that will flow either musically or thematically?

AMOS: When I’m traveling, I think the key is that when you go into a city, you really have to take stock of the emotional temperature there, so for instance, when things have happened in the world like the Oslo tragedy and you’re playing a show there that night, the people are in absolute shock and grief at that level of violence so then there’s an opportunity for something healing to happen and to work through the shock of an experience like that together through music. Or if you’re not in that city but you might be close by, you might still form a connection with current events … I design the sets based on the energy of the city I’m in and what they’re responding to and if there’s something that seems especially appropriate, I mean except for like “Datura,” I can pretty much do a version alone at the piano even if it’s not something the band or in this case the string quartet has worked up. Or I can do a cover. I see all songs as part of the palette and it’s about changing something every night so that it’s unique. Some songs are just part of the basic repertoire and you’ll find I’m playing them at almost every show. They’re kind of our building blocks and we go from there.

BLADE: These songs are more classically oriented than anything else you’ve done. Is that dictated by the arrangements and instrumentation or is there something in their basic lyrics and chord progressions that makes them inherently classical in nature? Could they have worked with drums and bass in theory?

AMOS: With this project, I knew I couldn’t make it too obscure in dealing with classical themes. I didn’t want it to sound un-contemporary. I wanted people to listen to it and say, “Oh, that’s the Tori I recognize.” I didn’t want it to be “Tori goes classical.” And so while there are some ancient melodic elements here, it’s really worked into a 21st century framework and so it’s not that they aren’t really built in a pop structure, but I think there’s a fusion that is happening and I told somebody yesterday you have to approach something like this where you’re using a master classical work as a base, there’s a delicate ruthlessness you have to apply because a lot of these pieces are very beautiful in their original form, but for a lot of people, unless you’re really into the classical arena, they haven’t been exposed to it all. So I would say to the masters themselves and their energy, “OK look, if you want to be part of this, you’ve got to let me know.” And each one would hunt me down. I’d just be walking around and it was like popcorn, “OK, I’m the Chopin piece, I’m in.”

BLADE: Tori fans are known for their extreme devotion. Do some fans take it too far with the massive collections, tattoos, following you around on tour, etc. Does that level of fandom ever freak you out?

AMOS: I think to some degree, that isn’t really any of my business. People have their own relationships with the songs. What maybe gets confusing is when people start trying to read so much into the songs that they think that I’m leaving my husband and child and running off with somebody from the planet Saturn and joining a cult and that’s just not happening. And so the songs can have heartbreak and all kinds of emotions but especially if you’re a writer, you write about it but you also have a private life and some entertainers don’t hold their private life very sacred. I have to walk a delicate balance because you want to be open with your emotions and let that into the music on one level but also present it in a way that transcends the particulars of what’s going on in my own life.

BLADE: As your early career was taking shape, it was clear you weren’t accepting history and religion from a traditional Judeo-Christian perspective. Did you and your father (a Methodist minister) talk about such things? Did your parents consider your lyrics and imagery sacreligious?

AMOS: Yeah, there were some conversations years ago, like before the turn of the century, there were many discussions and he would say he thought I was being a little hard on the big G and I would say, “Well, you know Dad, writers have to be able to have their say and it’s important because it’s from a different perspective.” I would never tell another writer what to say or not to say. They have to have their own musical expressions. I don’t always agree with other writers or other theology, but it might really motivate me to ask questions on my own. I think that’s what a good writer does, motivating others to ask questions. Not to tell them something, but to find out what it is they believe.

BLADE: Why do you think gay people exist? Is it to fulfill some evolutionary or biological role? Does it matter?

AMOS: Well, different people have had different information over the years that I find very fascinating. I’m sure you’ve been reading. Some of it sounds very iffy but it sounds like the science is very supportive that this is not something you just choose and I think the religions really need to hear this from the scientific community. I do think the judgment that is against people who are gay is so misinformed and cold. I’ve met quite a few young people who have been really tormented by other teenagers and they’re not being accepted even in the 21st century. I think in some ways the world has become more judgmental. It’s almost a world of extremes and then you have the center, we see this even in Congress, trying to find some balance and logic amidst these extremes. I mean, I don’t know what it would be like to be a teen today and realize that I’m gay. I don’t know if it’s any easier than it was, if you’re in, say a very conservative household. I mean what happens when somebody in a tea party household realizes this?

BLADE: You play the piano with such precision. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you hit an obvious wrong note. Is this just from years of playing? How do you manage this? Don’t all pianists hit wrong notes sometimes?

AMOS: Well part of the whole thing is that my core is very aligned and it might not seem like I’m moving around much but my core is pretty anchored, I kind of balance myself on the high heel and it gives me a stance.

BLADE: So the heels aren’t just for the glamour? They factor into how you play?

AMOS: Definitely. If I have a flat foot, I don’t have the same kind of core or if it’s anchored too high, then I wobble, but if it’s just the right height on the foot, it’s a huge support to the core because you play from your core, not from your hands. It all comes from the center, your solar plexus.

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Miscellaneous

D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market

Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory

Published

on

housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.

Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.

Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.

Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”

D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.

We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.

Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.

Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.

 

Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.

Continue Reading

Miscellaneous

Kick-ass crossovers

Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms

Published

on

crossovers, gay news, Washington Blade

Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.

DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
$81,000
Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds

For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.

Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.

LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
$85,000
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds

For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.

Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.

Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.

Land Rover Defender X

Continue Reading

Miscellaneous

A closer look at the houses in our fave holiday films

The role of architecture in Christmas storytelling

Published

on

Christmas house, gay news, Washington Blade
Ralphie’s house in ‘A Christmas Story’ is available for special events and even weddings. (Photo courtesy AChristmasStoryHouse.com)

We’re in the midst of the Hallmark season. Their movies are available 24/7 and they can serve as both light entertainment and as background noise.

The formula is simple: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, and she moves to some rural place with plenty of snow rather than live in the city where she is harried, overworked, and financially successful. Thankfully, Hallmark is finally branching out to boy meets boy and girl meets girl like Dashing in December and The Happiest Season, but the formula remains pretty much the same except that someone is still in the closet.

As a real estate agent, I tend to focus on things like architecture and décor when I watch the original classics and those that have become traditional in more recent years.

There are extreme exteriors like the Griswold house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Deck the Halls, where the Halls and the Finches argue over how many exterior lights are too many.

One of my favorite movies is The Holiday, where Iris and Amanda exchange homes for Christmas vacation. Iris’s house is the quintessential stone cottage in a quaint English village. You can just feel how cold the house is until the fire is lit.

Amanda’s house, on the other hand, is a gorgeous Mediterranean built in the late 1920s, with a barrel tiled roof, located in San Marino, Calif. There are lots of contemporary touches inside, including automatic window shades and a kitchen to die for. While the house’s exterior is real, the interior was specifically constructed on a separate soundstage to transform it from traditional to contemporary.

The kitchen in A Christmas Story reminds me of my maternal grandparents’ home in Maine. It was a three-bedroom, one-bath upstairs apartment over my grandfather’s general store. We would sit around the table chatting while my Nana uncovered the dough that she would use to bake bread.

She would peel off little bits of dough to deep fry and we would eat them with locally made butter for breakfast (think hush puppies with dough instead of cornmeal). The whistle from the nearby, malodorous paper mill called us to lunch at that same table. At one, the whistle would blow again to call the townsmen back to work.

The incredibly large Georgian Colonial home in Home Alone, also from the 1920s, always made me wonder what Mr. McCallister did for a living that he could afford the mortgage. Today, that house in the Chicago suburban village of Winnetka, Ill., would command roughly $3 million.

The Victorian Four Square showcased in The Family Stone reminds me of the homes in 16th Street Heights, with large wrap-around porches, wide moldings, wainscotting and what looks to be William Morris wallpaper. And who could forget the Smith’s family home in Meet Me in St. Louis, an impressive Victorian Second Empire, where the songbird, Judy Garland, wooed us with her rendition of Merry Little Christmas.

The Columbia Inn with its adjacent ski lodge became the set for White Christmas. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sang and danced their way into our hearts. The lodge had floor to ceiling atrium windows and held about three dozen tables for dinner. It was beautifully decorated for the holiday, with the red of poinsettias and the green of World War II uniforms.

Also lovely were the Christmas tree and arched doorways in the 1947 Cary Grant film, The Bishop’s Wife (not to be confused with Denzel Washington’s 1996 remake, The Preacher’s Wife, which seems to take place as much outdoors as indoors).

How can we possibly talk about Christmas movies without mentioning the drafty, old house of It’s a Wonderful Life? The Old Granville House is another example of Second Empire Victorian (1860s to 1880s). In the beginning of the movie, it’s what we would call a fixer upper, without the shiplap and open floorplan favored by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Mary Bailey, wife of George, does an excellent job of cleaning and wallpapering (and, we hope, replacing windows) to transform an ugly duckling into the swan that is the family home.

Finally, Miracle on 34th Street is still one of my favorite Christmas movies, as much for the independence of the single mother and trial of Santa Claus as for the yellow Cape Cod that a young Natalie Wood is presented with once she learns to believe in Santa. Perhaps if you believe in Santa again, someone will bring you a house next year too.

Wishing you happiness and good health this holiday season.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular