Few performers can silence an audience like singer-pianist Tori Amos can. As soon as she arrived on stage, a hush fell over the crowd that filled most of Cain Park. Well, at least most of the audience members paid attention to the show. We had the misfortune of sitting in front of a particularly talkative group of people (they might have been from Pittsburgh, which would explain their lack of etiquette). But for the most part, the audience members treated the show with the reverence of a classical concert, which was a good thing since Amos was playing without the accompaniment of a band. Amos, who wore heels, glasses and a long flowing silk robe that made her look rather distinguished (and a bit matronly), has made much of the fact that turning 50 has been difficult for her. But she played and sang with a youthful energy that suggested her new album Unrepentant Geraldines, a return to her pop rock roots after a foray into the classical world, has invigorated her in some way.
That was apparent right from the opening notes of “Parasol,” the sparse piano ballad that opened the two-hour show. Dramatically singing “when I come to terms with this,” she fidgeted at the piano, at times dramatically turning her head to face the audience. The concert’s first half was bereft of hits, but Amos, who was perched atop a small riser at center stage between a grand piano and a small keyboard, had the attention of the crowd, which cheered every time she dropped the f-bomb or straddled the piano bench to simultaneously play piano and keyboard. Mid-show, she played a two-song set that she dubbed the Lizard Lounge. Amos has covered a number of tunes over the years, but her cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Something I Can Never Have” ranks with the best of them. Her performance of the tune was truly haunting as she whispered, “I’m starting to scare myself” in such a way that showed just how well she connected to the tune. At times, a bit of distortion even reverberated through the speakers as she raised her voice. It was a terrific moment. The second half of the set was a bit more accessible than the first half as Amos revisited classic tracks such as “Little Amsterdam” and “Cornflake Girl,” which she played to a backing track. She played “Cornflake Girl” with such energy – she even let loose a howl at one point — that you could tell she reveled in delivering what’s arguably her best song. And she left the stage with a smile and a “group hug,” again indicating the renewed energy she’s experience on the other side of 50. That energy carried over to the encore that included “Trouble’s Lament,” the terrific single from Unrepentant Geraldines.
The folk-y husband and wife duo Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou opened with a sleepy 30-minute acoustic set that felt more like a rehearsal.