All the emotive power of Tori Amos’ breathy brand of pop translates well from record to concert stage, fully connecting with a rabid audience. Uncompromising in an unusual way, Amos is gradually shedding the precocity and preciousness of her earliest efforts. Vocal tics and mannerisms still scream out “Kate Bush!” but she’s certainly refining her own songwriting voice. Amos’ latest album on Atlantic, “Boys for Pele,” finds her moving in an earthier, decidedly uncommercial direction, delving ever deeper into psychosexual themes and constructing increasingly complex, multisection musical backdrops. The results can be thrillingly cerebral, as with the symbolic variations of “Horses,” or nonsensically close to Spinal Tap territory, e.g. “I never left you for a banjo/I only just turned around for a poodle and a Corvette” from the song “Putting the Damage On.”
Eschewing a full band, Amos played most of the two-hour show alone on keyboards, occasionally joined by Steve Caton’s moody, atmospheric guitar. And, with the exception of a rather jaunty “Cornflake Girl” and a delicately heartbreaking “Hey Jupiter,” she avoided the hits.
Amos’ incredibly flexible voice gets a full workout, from the full-throated wails of “Blood Roses” to the hushed, fragile murmurs of “Not the Red Baron.” Proving she’s not much of a raconteur with half-hearted between-song patter, she still has showmanship to spare, sustaining a particularly high note on “Caught a Lite Sneeze,” as she slowly swiveled from piano to harpsichord.
Mixing in obscure B-sides (the trickily rhythmic “Upside Down”) and one misbegotten cover (a dirgelike trawl through “Over the Rainbow”), Amos was able to please the cult completists. Still, the most effective moment remains her a capella true-life rape tale, “Me and a Gun,” her wracked vocal making it truly both harrowing and mesmerizing.
TX:Whether that voice can hold up throughout a 200-date tour remains to be seen. That she is consolidating her fan base and appears destined for progressively greater heights is undeniable.