We Love Music: Tori Amos at D.A.R. Constitution Hall, 12/5/2011

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Ruby-tressed siren Tori Amos brought a breathtakingly beautiful evening of music to DC’s D.A.R. Constitution Hall on Monday night. She is in the midst of a world tour in support of her latest album, Night of Hunters, released in September on Deutsche Grammophon Records. The album is described by Amos as “a 21st century song cycle inspired by classical music themes spanning over 400 years.” For the tour she brought along the string quartet who played on the album, Apollon Musaget Quartett, from Poland.

Seeing Tori play in DC, her hometown, is always a special experience, and Monday night was no exception. The stage of Constitution Hall appeared at once both grand and intimate- set with beautiful, draping curtains, drawn to expose a backdrop that was at times illuminated to look like a sky full of twinkling stars. Above her glossy, black, Bosendorfer Grand piano hung a chandelier. First on the stage came the string quartet, and they began a musical introduction. Then Tori entered the stage to a sea of applause, and bowed, as she always does, to her fans, before taking her seat at the piano.

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The group launched into ”Shattering Sea”, the first track from her newest album Night of Hunters, a dark, tempestuous piece with brooding piano and lively strings. The piece set the mood for the rest of the night- beautiful, lush, emotional, energetic and virtuosic. While the tour was clearly formed around the new album, the group also created arrangements of Tori’s classic repertoire, filling the set with new, exciting interpretations of old favorites.

A show-stopping moment came a few songs into the set, as Tori began playing “Tubular Bells” on the piano. (Known to many as the theme from the movie “The Exorcist”, which was coincidentally filmed largely in Georgetown, where Tori got her start performing in bars.) This turned into a mind-blowing medley (at least for any Tori fan), as she began singing her song “God”, from her 1994 album Under the Pink, and then wove in the Kate Bush classic “Running Up That Hill.” 

Another beautiful moment from the new album came with “Nautical Twilight,” with swirling strings, mysterious melodies and lilting vocals. This was followed by the delicate, touching “Winter,” from her 1992 album Little Earthquakes. At this point the quartet exited the stage, and Tori played a few songs solo with piano, including fan favorites “Crucify” and  ”Cooling.”

It is hard to highlight the high points of this show, as there were so many. I have seen Tori too many times to count, but this show was one of my favorites. Every fan has their favorite songs, but she played almost all of mine in this set, and made me fall in love with her new material as well. She threw in a light surprise with “The Wrong Band,” saying “get ready to Twitter!… I’m doing this because it’s here” (DC) “and here, down the street needs to hear this song.” Political statement? Some other pearls in the set were a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” “Pretty Good Year,” from Under the Pink, and her emotional powerhouses “Precious Things” and “Cruel.”

After her main set the Apollon Musaget Quartett played one of their original pieces by themselves, before Tori returned for a generous encore including “Cloud On My Tongue,” “Spark,” and ending with the raucous “Big Wheel” from her American Doll Posse album. As always, she left her audience roaring for more.

Alexia Kauffman

Alexia was born and raised in Arlington, VA. She has been a cellist since age four, and a lover of rock & roll soon after. The first tape she owned was “Make It Big” by Wham, and the first tape she bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and she still loves both. She was a member of local synth-rock outfit Soft Complex for several years, and has recorded with bands including Engine Down and Two if By Sea. By day she works for a non-profit distributing royalties to musicians and labels. She currently plays cello, lap-steel guitar and tambourine in the DC post-folk/Americana band The Torches.

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