The most obvious and consequential difference between Tori Amos’ current stage production and her previous one-woman shows is the addition of her vibrant new three-piece backing band. Gone is the austere and depressing tone that often marked her concerts, replaced now by a propulsive rock sound that transforms the singer-songwriter’s dramatic songs into more presentable, ultimately uplifting packages.
Also missing were the ill-conceived and distracting backing samples from her last tour, as well as her old piano bench (which had curiously become a significant part of the show) and one of her signature tunes, the shocking “Me and a Gun,” which recounts her experiences as a teenage rape victim.
No longer the perpetual casualty, Amos, as evidenced by the songs she performed from her just-released “From the Choirgirl Hotel” (Atlantic) album, is a willful survivor who’s exploring life’s depths and triumphs, even in the face of tragedies like her recent publicized miscarriage. Spinning on a drum stool between her piano and her electric keyboard (which she often played simultaneously), Amos attacked her instrument and her lyrics like a woman possessed.
At the spacious, half-filled Wilshire Theatre (the fire marshal forced the show from its original El Rey Theatre location, making for an unusual “sold-out” show in the larger venue) on Wednesday, the recently married Amos — who was ending a 12-city sneak preview of her pending larger tour — kicked up her musical heels and tore into her old and new material with a bold sense of purpose that revealed an artist in the throes of spring-like growth.
Songs like the crowd fave “Cornflake Girl,” the haunting new single “Spark” and the headstrong “Icicle” were energized by the rock format, though we could have done without the unfortunate and unfunny Bill Clinton joke which Amos told during the intro of the latter.
Shades of Led Zeppelin, Elton John and other ’70s-associated rock artists powered the music beyond the folksy, oftensorrowful style she formerly employed. Only during a two-song mid-set interlude (what Amos called her “secret time”) did this minister’s daughter take a solo turn, including a mesmerizing piano-and-vocal performance of “Silent All These Years,” the 1991 debut single that first brought Amos to the world’s attention.
Tori Amos’ summer arena tour kicks off July 15 in Milwaukee and hits the Pond in Anaheim Sept. 18 and L.A.’s Greek Theatre Sept. 22.