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Our Town Welcomes eTown

December 8th, 2009

eTown Taping – Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom – December 7, 2009

Tori Amos
The Colorado-based radio variety show eTown, airing on more than 270 radio stations worldwide, took up temporary residence at the Manhattan Center’s Grand Ballroom last night, inviting guests Tori Amos and Loudon Wainwright III (filling in for Jesse Winchester, who had fallen ill) to share songs and answer questions before a live audience. For all the podcasts and Internet radio streams to be found these days, live tapings of this scale are a rarity in these parts. So the eTown taping was a bit unfamiliar, exciting and intriguingly retro.

Hosts Nick and Helen Forster introduced the program and their backing band, the eTones. Since it will air during the week of Christmas, the show had a distinct holiday theme. Fittingly, Amos’s recent release, Midwinter Graces, is comprised of original holiday songs and interpretations of traditional ones. After opening with “Lady in Blue,” she performed “Star of Wonder,” a recontextualized version of “We Three Kings.” In the following interview, Amos explained that she aimed to “expand the ideology” of religion through these songs. As per usual, the audience’s response to Amos was adoring. (When Wainwright took the stage to a significantly subdued greeting, he good-naturedly joked, “Why aren’t you screaming for me?”)

Although the eTown taping wasn’t far removed from a traditional concert, the old-fashioned charm of knowing that the proceedings were soon to be broadcast on radio was tangible nonetheless. When the show airs, those who were there will know that Amos and Wainwright playfully saluted each other as they collaborated with the eTown musicians for the finale. We’ll understand that Amos played a slightly extended intro to “Silent All These Years” while waiting for a malfunctioning monitor to be adjusted. And when we hear a random burst of applause in the middle of a lyric, we’ll remember that it was our response to Amos making a theatrical, sexy gesture. And you sure can’t send that over radio waves. —Alena Kastin