Yep, she still squirms and straddles her piano bench like she’s wielding an electric guitar. Yes, she’s still got crimson-colored hair and flails around on stage like a mental patient. But the signposts of time are stamped all over Tori Amos’s On Scarlet’s Walk Tour. Amos emerged on stage for the first performance of her three-night stint at New York’s Radio City Music Hall dressed like a futuristic Stevie Nicks and announced that the “house band” would be taking requests at the piano bar. Over a decade into her career, Amos’s music has become relatively demure: Her latest release, Scarlet’s Walk, was a rather conventional selection of midtempo pop-rock ditties about America and its people. No more than eight of the lengthy 24-song set were culled from the album; the ones that were accentuated a more grownup sense of songwriting and performance. “Strange,” the quirky “Wednesday,” and “Taxi Ride,” a song enkindled by the death of friend and makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin, were given new vivacity in their live incarnations. Amos revisited many older songs as well, but while she effortlessly recaptures the fervor of the material, it’s difficult to imagine that the now-near-40 mother/singer still connects with the fascist panty-wearing demigods of the decade-old “Precious Things.” Regardless, it’s Amos’s potent and wailing renditions of the song and 1994’s “Icicle” that provided the night’s peak moments. Other highs included a couple of b-sides, most notably a soaring version of “Take to the Sky,” and a few songs from Amos’s under-appreciated 1998 effort From the Choirgirl Hotel. A performance of “Black-Dove (January)” was at once dynamic and delicate, and even more aptly spacey than the album version. It’s songs like these and “Iieee” that make Amos’s newest work seem even less dramatic. But despite some questionable lighting cues and an encore that puttered to an end, Amos still gives the latest crop of female singer-songwriters a run for their respective instruments.
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