It's Tori Amos, live in Chicago at the Vic Theater, performing her song "Me and a Gun." Usually, this song is performed a capella. It is also about sexual assault, and I, along with many fans, consider it to be one of her most powerful compositions. You can take a look at the lyrics here.
The Chicago performance of the song (which had Tori "in character" as one of the members of the Doll Posse, Pip) has angered, confused and divided many of her fans (at least around the internet--where music nerds come to express their opinions and useless knowledge, declare their love for their favorite artists, and start flame wars with each other over whose opinion is correct or incorrect). This is mostly because the song was performed with musical accompaniment, and had Tori, in character, using props--a knife, which she rubbed on herself at different intervals, and a gun, which she pointed to her head and then towards the audience at the end of the song.
Now, let's take a look at some fan reactions from a popular Tori fansite:
after the show, particularly after pip’s set, i felt completely castrated, as a man. the fact that she wore the album cover black tight leather pants was one thing. that she bent over backwards to the audience for an extended amount of time was another. but people, then she played “me and a gun”... with a band. and pulled out a knife. and kept rubbing it all over herself. and then brought out a gun. and pointed it at the audience.
Would anyone like to take a stab (no pun intended!) at deconstructing or commenting upon the bizarre psychoanalytic content or subtext of the above passage?
I didn't think so.
Next, we have a comment from "Jason":
Pip slithered out bad-ass and went into the most intense and aggravated version of Cruel I have ever seen. I first I (sic) thought this was good fun, like the rest of the dolls, but then when she started yelling “you can fuck me, but I’ll rip your cock off,” I knew this was for real. She made me feel really uncomfortable, but there was something exhilarating about it. I had this image of her swinging my dick in her hand laughing, and I was kinda scared.
Dude, do you really want the entire internet to know that? I seriously do not understand the castration anxiety here.
This comment, written by "Sarah," didn't make me roll my eyes like the first two did:
The crowd reaction is telling of how very uncomfortable Rape makes our society. The laughs, often interpreted as a sign of anxiety/discomfort by those working with trauma survivors, from people in the audience only backs up the assertion that MAAG (performed in this way) is very effective and disturbing. Tori made her point, and I have never seen performance art effect an audience in such a visceral way. The very literal, sexual, angry way she chose to portray the act of rape and residual effect startled me. The image of knife as penis and stabbing penetration was so shocking that I first felt assaulted/insulted. The gun and the sense of rage turned on herself and then the audience. Channeling rage into performance art.
Here's a comment from "Noah," who, thankfully, does not bring up castration anxieties/fantasies like a few of those who commented before him:
Me and a Gun recontextualized as Pip killing the rapist was so freaking brilliant; I think what people were freaked out about was the performance had not a hint of irony behind it. She was in the moment and fully committed to the character. It was a brilliant and weird moment of pop/performance art that I’m so honored to have seen live.
Perhaps this performance was meant as a commentary on the eroticization of domination and pain--something that particular media forms in our culture (ie: mainstream pornography) seem to be, for the most part, predicated upon. With that in mind (and I'm just guessing, so my interpretation may be totally false), I do not understand the audience's screaming and catcalling and wooohooo-ing. As "Sarah" commented, maybe they didn't know how to react. In my view, that is a problem.