The enchanting notes of opener Flying Dutchman are underway; the orchestra is in full flow; beautiful lines and chords emit from the central Bosendorfer piano – its silver-green silky suited player looking radiant under her red curls and specs. It’s precisely as this optimum harmony of swelling orchestra and enigmatic singer-songwriter charm is achieved, that Tori Amos stops abruptly – with the look of a startled, guilty schoolgirl – crying, “FUCK! I fucked it up again!” Rapturous applause ensues. She needn’t have worried.
The now 49-year-old is such a beguiling performer, and the numbers in this career-spanning set-list translate so well to John Philip Shenale’s orchestral arrangements (comprising her latest release, and thirteenth solo studio record, Gold Dust), that any lover of live music – Amos fan or not – would struggle to not relish this performance. The grand setting of the Royal Albert Hall further cements this proposition, providing the perfect setting for a delighting night of classical-meets-contemporary musicianship.
Of course, those of us who already like her material have much to enjoy in this set – notched up to 11 with slick accompaniment from the Netherlands’ Metropole Orkest. Her greatest hits, along with some slightly less publicised choices, made the Gold Dust cut and are exhibited to fantastic effect tonight.
Unsurprisingly, the likes of Jackie’s Strength, Marianne and Winter receive a rousing reception – hardcore devotees whooping in delight before swaying and singing under their breaths throughout. But its also the melancholy Ribbons Undone, from 2005’s The Beekeeper (which received mixed reviews at the time) that thrive tonight. It’s not such a raucous cheer-inducing number, but quietly really quite exquisite. My gig buddy and I mouth “I don’t think I’d heard that one!” at one another – we may have found a new favourite.
What’s especially appealing about Tori’s delivery and overall manner is the way she manages to convey a sense of kooky wonderment whilst seeming very worldly, with a wealth of life experience. The knowing, rhyming drawl of Leather, for instance, adds a deeper, subtly humoured slant, contrasting pleasantly with the sweet tones of Baker Baker and co. And her voice – high and ethereal one minute, bold and impassioned the next – is on stirring form, successfully reflecting her classical as well as rocky backgrounds and musical output.
A confident encore, featuring John Hopkins cover Star of Wonder, and Our New Year, brings the hall to its feet – Tori’s daughter Natashya (who gets a shout-out from mum early in the show) included. It’s been twenty years since her debut Little Earthquakes, and the scope of poetic lyricism and alternative piano rock achieved in that time has been shown off to maximum effect in such a majestic environment. Great show; well done Tori.
Tori Amos’ Gold Dust Orchestral Tour runs until the 15th October. For more details about this and more of her upcoming tours click here.
Polly Glass @Polly_Glass