Tori Amos, Shaw Theatre, London

Shaw Theatre, London

This is not a concert. It is "a musically punctuated conversation", which resembles something you might find on BBC3 in the wee hours. Tori Amos and music journalist Lucy O'Brien chat away in comfy chairs, then Amos moves to the grand piano for a handful of songs. Like much of Amos's career, it's pretentious on paper yet fascinating in practice. It has been a while since Amos troubled the top 10, but her fanbase's fervour is undimmed. They pitch forward in their seats in rapt admiration, mouthing every lyric, even the B-sides.

They're equally attentive when Amos and O'Brien are talking, and with good reason. Amos, wearing an unexpectedly disco silver top and diaphanous black skirt, has a remarkable speaking voice. It has a languorous intimacy, like someone lowering themselves into a hot bath. A lucrative second career in audiobooks is hers for the taking.

Sometimes she meanders. The explanation of one song's gestation spans 10 years, three countries and an incident involving Vlad the Impaler until O'Brien is moved to interject: "This is quite a shaggy dog story isn't it?" Often Amos is laugh-out-loud funny. Asked what she likes about her home in Cornwall, she tells a story about an irate wife going from pub to pub looking for her husband. "You know what happens?" boggles Amos. "She runs over him! In Bude! "

The conversation also sheds light on the songs. Revealing that she finds A Pretty Good Year emotionally difficult to play ramps up the intensity. She mentions that audiences always clap out of time to the dramatic, percussive Take to the Sky, so when she plays it people do indeed clap out of time, if a little self-consciously. At the end of the song Amos interpolates a thunderous segment of Carole King's I Feel the Earth Move. This "musically punctuated conversation" is as riveting as any concert.


Dorian Lynskey

The GuardianTramp

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