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Tori Amos live!

| December 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

For the length of her career, the saga of Tori Amos has, at its most basic, come down to the story of a woman and her piano. Certainly, there’s much more at play there, what with all the mystical lyrical imagery, fearless revelations, heady concept albums, and endless personas. But, at its core, the constant throughout all the characters and wardrobe changes has been Amos and her primary instrument. So when the veteran songstress incorporated a string quartet into her Chicago Theatre set this past Saturday, it not only changed the conversation, but it brought new energy to staples and strengthened more recent material.

Saturday’s event found Amos returning to the venue behind the recently released Night Of Hunters and its instrumental companion, Sin Palabras. On selections like “Lust,” off 1999’s To Venus And Back, and the title track to 2005’s The Beekeeper, as well as a cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong,” Amos performed solo, going back to the tried-and-true vocals-and-piano approach. Yet given the singer’s sprawling discography of 12 studio albums in under 20 years, even sonically distinct solo material blended together when given the scope of Saturday’s set and Amos’ library. Thankfully, a string section, including cello, violin, and viola, both enlivened the set’s selections and made for a more distinct delivery.

Perhaps most benefiting of the artist’s additional players was “Leather,” off 1992’s Little Earthquakes. As old as anything played during Saturday’s concert — and a track that originally featured subtle string work on its studio version — the additional players perfectly complemented Amos’ vocal stylings and the song’s simple and creeping melody. With regards to more modern material, the evening’s string musicians brought a warmth to Hunters production “Your Ghost,” while Amos and her instrument almost felt like support on that same album’s “Star Whisperer,” with the quartet bringing a rich grandeur to the selection. Soundtrack song “Siren,” meanwhile, received a more urgent, jerkier string treatment, with the 1997 deep cut a set treat in and of itself.

Over the years, as Amos’ sound has matured, so too has the tone of her material. Yet at the conclusion of a predominantly solemn and straight-faced evening of adult-alternative-all-grown-up, the artist closed with a jaunty rendition of “Big Wheel,” from 2007’s American Doll Posse. An unabashedly big and poppy production, the song made a showy declaration of the singer’s “M.I.L.F.” status. And, for just a moment, Amos wasn’t so much the grown songstress serenading a hushed theater with strings and piano, but the odd brash firecracker serving up strange and disarming alt-pop. It was a brief and welcome return to form among a night of successful new sound experiments.

— Jaime de’Medici

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Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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