Tori Amos's latest record, The Beekeeper, is a bewildering concept album of sphinx-like complexity. Its 19 abstruse songs are divided, seemingly arbitrarily, into six "gardens". Amos has never been afraid to gild the lily.
Yet the live performance is simplicity itself. Taking the stage alone, the US singer-songwriter is armed with only a grand piano and a selection of Hammond organs. It seems a slim arsenal with which to capture the crowd's attention, and the evening proves an erratic one.
Although it is conceptually overwrought, The Beekeeper boasts some fluid, sparky pop songs. Luckily for Amos, a killer melody can redeem a preposterous lyric. So taken is the audience tonight with the vivacious dynamics of Witness that they ignore the fact that she is singing: "In your furnace, then, you drink my tenderness/ Feldspar and mica."
Such nonsensical wordiness, however, is thrown into relief when the music flags. As Amos switches between her keyboards, too many tunes lapse into a disappointingly dreary dirge. The Beekeeper's title track and Hey Jupiter flounder, labouring under the weight of their own portentousness.
The infectious Sweet the Sting is better, with a cameo appearance from a gospel sextet providing a welcome lift in mood and flow. The ribald Hoochie Woman also relieves the intensity, with Amos proving herself a surprisingly dab hand at, of all things, boogie-woogie.
Amos can be a self-absorbed performer, but there is no denying her meticulous musicianship. She lends a throbbing vibrancy to George Michael's Father Figure. Madonna's Like a Prayer fares less well, its disingenuous sense of pop fun reduced to heavy-handed melodrama.
In the eyes of tonight's whooping followers, Tori Amos can do no wrong. She may need, however, to prune those overgrown lyrics for everything in her six gardens to truly come up rosy.
· At Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow (0870 040 4000), tonight. Then touring.