Tori Amos hit the stage at the opulent Academy of Music in Philadelphia on December 1st. Entering after a few minutes of an intense intro by the Polish string quartet Apollon Musagète, she greeted the crowd then sat at her piano and rocked “Shattering Sea”, a new tune from her latest album, “Night of the Hunters”. Tori was wearing a festive 80’s-like long satin gown specially designed with a large slit for your dual piano playing maneuvers. She wore some matching somewhat metallic tights and super fabulous 6-inch faux diamond incrusted heals. (I heard the taller the heel the better the piano playing and now I believe it!) She looked years younger than 48.
Tori’s quartet played with her the entire show, except for her solos, the first of which was “Velvet Revolution”. She played a set of several solos like “Northern Lad”, “Purple People”, “Mr. Zebra” and “Winter”. Towards the last verse of “Winter”, Tori was getting emotional. It seemed as though she was brought to tears as she finished with “You think things change my dear”. I thought she literally took her tears, wiped them off her face and through them out to the crowd as if to shake it off and get rid of the bad energy. She then got moving onto “Cloud on My Tongue” and after “Star Whisperer”, played a crowd-pleasing Joni Mitchell track “A Case of You”.
The quartet was orchestrated beautifully and was the perfect accompaniment to Tori’s dramatic piano playing and storybook lyrics. The violins seemed to be chasing her on several tracks which added an even more dramatic intensity to Tori’s songs. Tori owned the stage aside from the occasional shout or “yeah Tori!” it was all Tori for about 2 hours with an enthralled crowd. The sound at this venue is off the hook and perfect for an intense show like this. She amazed me with her dual piano playing. Sitting on a bench, practically doing a split, she played her Bösendorfer Piano for most of the show and for a few other tracks, she would straddle her seat and would simultaneously play the other keyboard while dazzling us with her graceful and dramatic songs. She engaged the crowd, bowed many times and waved to us with her “jazz hands” after several songs and cheers. At some point midway, she gave a shout-out to the Drexel University football team where her niece plays lacrosse. She flipped the crowd the bird for not bringing her a jersey which got a few chuckles out of everyone.
Tori played for about 2 hours and had 2 encore performances, my favorite of which was “Precious Things”. She gave plenty of time for the Polish foursome to have the spotlight and the varied intensities of how they played helped her songs shine even more. Tori is and talented composer and her ability to play songs herself without needing too many other musicians is amazing. She pulls you into a world of love, heartache, playful fun and regardless of what she is singing or playing about, you are in the moment along with her the whole time and this in itself is worth going back for more.