Tori Amos @ Birmingham Symphony Hall – 12th May 2014


For the Unrepentant Geraldines tour, the stage is set up with a Bosendorfer piano and keyboard lit with a single beam of white light, ready for Tori Amos’ entrance. Needless to say her arrival is flamboyant, dressed in leather trousers, beautiful heeled sandals and a voluminous patterned over dress supported by her recognisable flame red hair, ensuring that everyone in Symphony Hall is able to see this petite tour de force. She sits astride the piano stool with authority, one leg facing forward to guarantee her connection with the audience whilst her other foot is used for the sustaining pedal.



The first track on the set list is taken from her 2005 album The Beekeeper, Parasol, with the repetition of the line “when I come to terms with this” reverberating around the arena as the audience sit attentively experiencing Amos’ musical talent.  Symphony Hall is certainly the right venue for such an occasion, as the acoustics and dynamics of both the piano and vocals are superbly managed and fill the hall, irrespective of where you are sat. Honey sees Tori utilise the keyboard and the piano, moving seamlessly between the two and at points playing both at the same time whilst perfectly balancing the stool between her legs.  Performing without a band, allows Amos the freedom to extend and adapt her music at will, as and when the song demands it, noticeably adding a growl to the word tight to provide a guttural and gritty aspect to Honey.



Tori Amos is renowned for meeting and greeting fans, and often takes requests prior to a show, one of tonight’s fan choices is Tear In Your Hand, taken from her iconic album Little Earthquakes.  As with all the songs, Amos presents an emotionally charged performance that adds a depth to the recorded version as the dynamics are more dramatically emphasised.  The backdrop for this tour consists of nine silver textured panels that reflect the creatively used lights either onto the stage or dramatically throughout Symphony Hall, during 1000 Oceans blue and green lighting suggests water like state reiterating the theme of the song.  The quirky little ditty, Mr Zebra, sees Tori’s hands theatrically fly up and down the piano with humour and temporarily alter the atmosphere before returning to the thought provoking, Icicle.  It is not only Tori Amos’ piano playing that is exquisite; her vocal range is vast and emotive, at times producing an operatic performance. Her flexible vocal ability is most noticeable in Caught A Lite Sneeze when she sings with a soft and erotic husk to her voice but at key points penetrates your soul with harsh accented words such as “Pretty Hate Machine”.


The Lizard Lounge sign is displayed on the panels and symbolises the time for a couple of covers.  Tonight, Tori has chosen U2’s Running To Stand Still and Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game, both of which she reworks to ensure that nothing is lost through the adaptation.  Certainly, her rendition of Running To Stand Still breathes new life into the track, adding an intensity and ferocity that is lacking from the original. After this brief interlude, Amos returns to her own material with Winter and Playboy Mommy which sees a lyrical change to incorporate Birmingham, a very popular move.  Amos speaks very little between songs, however, introduces the next track Invisible Boy taken from her new album, Unrepentant Geraldines, and admits to never playing it before, with a shrug and a “let’s see how it goes” she releases a beautifully, well-constructed song that flows effortlessly. The calm is shattered with the truculent Take To The Sky that sees Amos hitting the piano to add emphasis to the beat whilst spitting out some of the words with such vitriol that shivers run down your spine.



The final song of the main set is In The Springtime Of His Voodoo which starts on the Hammond organ (a brief exchange took place during Take To The Sky) and has been reworked and extended to produce the song of the evening.  Amos plays with tempo and key change to create a magical piece of music that enchants everyone in the audience and provides a suitable point for her to exit.  As she leaves she bows and thanks the crowd but is off stage for the briefest of moments and returns with her most famous hit, Cornflake Girl. For the first time, Amos uses a backing track which limits her performance but brings an alternative dimension to the set which continues into Trouble’s Lament.  Before leaving, Tori Amos bestows Pretty Good Year upon us, with its fluctuating passion and subtle ending that completes an impeccable set which successfully spanned the lengthy recording career of such a prolific artist.  I can’t imagine Tori Amos playing any other instrument as she is inextricably linked to the piano, her sheer passion and conviction is overwhelming and utterly gripping.  The only drawback of the evening is that Amos has such a vast back catalogue that each show has a different set list so you cannot be guaranteed to hear your favourite tracks, but what this does, is remind you and allow you to experience her other gems in their full  beauty.
Review – Toni Woodward

Photos – Steve Roche

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