Tori Amos Performs with String Quartet in Manhattan

Songwriter plays new tunes, oldies and a U2 cover at the Beacon Theater

December 4, 2011 1:20 PM ET
Tori Amos
Tori Amos performs at the Beacon Theater in New York City.
Julie Holder for Rollingstone.com

Tori Amos stepped outside of her comfort zone for her latest album, Night of Hunters, a classical song cycle. Her tour in support of that record also finds her stepping outside of her typical patterns, albeit in a more minor way, with a string quartet augmenting the arrangements of a majority of the songs in her set. Though her show touches on a few selections from Night of Hunters, the concert is more of a gussied-up version of her usual piano-centric show rather than a full-on classical performance.

Though such a classical show could've been intriguing, her approach to this format Saturday during her second night at Manhattan's Beacon Theater was a lot more crowd-pleasing. Amos' set drew on nearly all of her albums, with solo piano renditions of numbers such as "Horses" and "Icicle" alongside reworked versions of oldies like "Spark," "Siren" and "Winter."

The new arrangements, which Amos devised with longtime collaborator John Philip Shenale for the Apollon Musagète quartet, skipped the bombast and schmaltz typically associated with adding strings to pop songs. Instead, the group provided subtle texture and unlikely rhythmic flourish to numbers "Suede" and "Cruel," while casting the strong melody of her Boys for Pele ballad "Hey Jupiter" in a new light.

Though the string section brought novelty to the performance, some of the most compelling moments came when Amos was by herself at her piano. Amos dropped a surprising cover of U2's "Running to Stand Still" midway through the main set, warping its melodic phrasing a bit and repeating its climax enough times to make the Irish rockers seem rather understated by comparison.

The encore began with Amos playing a flawless version of her Little Earthquakes tearjerker "China," drawing applause as she mention New York in the verses, while delivering the song's heartbreaking, soaring chorus with remarkable confidence and grace. Amos' more recent material leans a bit too heavily on concept and often impenetrable narrative, but it was good to see that she can still reconnect with sentimentality and intense, undiluted emotion.

Tori Amos' setlist for her concert at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan on December 3rd was as follows:

"Shattering Sea"
"Velvet Revolution"
"Girl Disappearing"
"Beauty Queen"
"Star Whisperer"
"Running to Stand Still"
"Bells for Her"
"Snow Cherries from France"
"Hey Jupiter"
"Spring Haze"

"A Multitude of Shades"
"Big Wheel"

Tori Amos on Embracing Classical Music

Tori Amos musical delayed indefinitely

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