In the past five years, Tori Amos has wandered out of the singer-songwriter sandbox, experimenting with classical compositions, orchestral reworkings, a musical and even a holiday album. This year, she released her 14th studio album, “Unrepentant Geraldines,” returning to piano- and vocal-driven pop rock with lyrics both deeply personal and pointedly political.
On Saturday night, Amos returned to Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall. Amos grew up in the area, and the show certainly had a homecoming feel: Her brief interactions with the audience were casually playful, and she admitted that “I always get nervous at these [shows] because I know all of you so well.”
Wearing a striking red ensemble, Amos was accompanied by only acoustic and electric pianos. As ever, she straddled her bench and switched between keyboards, often playing both simultaneously, and delivering every note, tremble, gasp and whisper with a dramatic flourish. Stripping songs to their essence was a rewarding and revealing approach, but it did cause the set to sag at times, as baroque ballads blurred into one another.
Amos has always been one to mix up the set list from night to night, and this show was no different. Along with staples such as “Precious Things” and “Crucify,” Amos dug into her catalogue, unearthing deep cuts from nearly all of her albums, each song met with thunderous applause and roars of recognition.
This tour has featured a mid-set section called the “Lizard Lounge,” a tribute to her time on the piano-bar circuit that sees Amos covering and mashing up songs by everyone from Beyoncé to Nine Inch Nails. After wishing herself “good luck,” she launched into the Cure’s “Pictures of You” before segueing into Y Kant Tori Read’s “The Big Picture.”
Y Kant Tori Read was the mostly disavowed synth-pop band that she fronted before her solo career blossomed, and this was possibly the first time she has performed the song as a solo artist, winning a standing ovation from the front of the room. A powerful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” followed, as did her titularly similar “Gold Dust,” a song with quintessentially D.C. lyrics about the Reflecting Pool and a “cherry blossom canopy” that also resonated with the crowd.
She closed her set with the jazzy, sexually charged “In the Springtime of His Voodoo” and fan favorite “Cornflake Girl,” the first few notes of the latter serving as a cue for fans to rush the stage. They remained there for her four-song encore, which closed with “Carry,” on which she sings, “You will not ever be forgotten by me, in the procession of the mighty stars.” The lyric has its own rhetorical meanings, but to the packed house, it was a message of mutual devotion.
Kelly is a freelance writer.