Jamie Tabberer

Gig review

Tori Amos - Night of Hunters tour

In the latter half of a career spanning three decades, Tori Amos's music has become steadily more experimental. From what I'm told, so have her tours. This year, upon the release of her 12th solo LP Night of Hunters - a beautiful but often taxing concept album with heavy classical music influences - sales and chart positions implied an arguably smaller fan base than in her 90s heyday.

Nevertheless it's a fan base stronger and more passionate than any other, and one devout to the end. Nowhere was this more apparent than at last night's gig at London's Royal Albert Hall; a stunning venue fittingly akin to a house of worship. They're the kind of fans who run to the front of the stage at the encore, hysterically waving their hands as if stranded on a desert island. This level of fandom is infamous at Tori concerts; recalling memories of Judy's at Carnegie Hall or the sorry young souls at Bieber concerts.

The most hardcore among them, though, are easily the gays. They ran riot through the RAH's corridors, jumping up and down, speculating the set list, testing each other's Tori knowledge ("What's her daughter's middle name?" - yeah, bit much). Half of them were still tuckered out from legging it over from Germany where she'd played the night before. Of course, GT has never questioned Tori's enduring status an an alt-gay icon and queen; as such, she's currently sitting pretty on page 38 of GT400.

And long may she reign. For this woman's talent is inexplicable and undeniable. What some described as a 'safe set' last night was indeed an accessible few hours, and an experience that would draw in rather than alienate a Tori newbie. There were many tracks from the new album as well as frequent detours into a discog of over 500 songs, from rare b-sides to well-known hits to her much loved cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit (*gay gasp!*).

It's a cover so rarely performed but so beloved it's attained legendary status, and indeed it perhaps crystallises Tori's appeal. As with so much of her music it's daringly stripped back and polished, the inimitable vocals breathy, feminine and yes, predominantly high-pitched; and yet, even without thrashing guitars or heavy percussion, it bears as much power and pith as the original. It's impossible to take your eyes off her; she was growling breathily into her microphone last night, sitting at her piano with tensed, parted legs, draped in what looked like a Kate Bush-esque old nightie: I swear people were so enamored at the scene they were making sex noises. FYI - this woman radiates sex appeal, but without resorting to performing in her underwear or straddling a canon or groping her backing dancers (of which there were none - no need for banal distractions here. This was a show about listening, not looking).

In fact the only distractions to speak of were a lone chandelier and an incredibly intense lighting display, and, crucially, an awe-inspiring string quartet. Their sense of rhythm and on occasion the speed with which they played was indescribable. Hats off to them.

Damaging an otherwise perfect evening were some fairly severe sound problems in the show's second half. The music is so delicate even the slightest tuning or feedback issue tarnishes its purity; most annoying was how long it took one such episode to be remedied. After all, every audience member has his or her favourite tracks. If any given individual's favourite was Hey Jupiter or Precious Things they might have gone home disappointed (mine is Winter and thankfully it was flawless), although realistically that's doubtful. We're talking here about a woman who turns the knees of gays weak with nothing more than the sharp arch of her neck at the end of a song.

Download Night of Hunters here.

For tickets to Friday's performance at Manchester's O2 Apollo, click here.

Royal Albert Hall,

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