Tori Amos’ latest record, “Night of Hunters,” is a collection of tunes she wrote based on classical compositions by the likes of Schubert and Mendelssohn, united by a lyrical concept allegedly having something to do with the sea. It was recorded exclusively using acoustic instruments and with her regular band replaced by a string combo, and was released on a European classical label. Record execs aren’t the only ones who can’t hear a single on it, which could explain the several sections of empty seats at the back of the hall for Amos’ Monday show at Constitution Hall.
She’s touring backed only by a classical Polish quartet, Apollon Musagète, and spent the first three-quarters of the nearly two-hour set on the ambitious and largely hook-free new material (”Nautical Twilight,” and “Shattering Sea” were among the oceanic offerings).
Even when the quartet’s bows were most active, Amos’ vocals dominated, and throughout the night she showed she’s still got an amazing voice. These days she’s using it to sound almost exactly like Kate Bush, which is no mean feat. Amos, who now lives in Cornwall in Bush’s native UK, even gave a fabulous cover of “Running Up That Hill,” a Bush song that had by far the night’s biggest dose of melody.
Amos seemed more focused on the music and less chatty than her normal self. The only interaction she had with the crowd until late in the evening came when Amos, who grew up in Rockville, asked if anybody from her alma mater, Richard Montgomery High School, was in the house. A few folks responded affirmatively. Amos cursed them, briefly smiled, and got back to business.
She’s the offspring of a Christian minister, which maybe excuses some of the religious-ish mumbo jumbo found in so many Amos tunes. “Peggy got a message for me from Jesus,” she crooned on “Cooling.” On “Precious Things,” she told the “Christian boys” that their sexual prowess “doesn’t make you Jesus. “Big Wheel” had her railing about a “divine master plan” and giving “Judas a try” and “Trusting my soul to the ice cream assassin.” She even threw a few bars of “Tubular Bells,” the theme from “The Exorcist,” into her own “God.” Near night’s end, Amos boldly took a turn at pop music’s most celebrated agnostic anthem, John Lennon’s “Imagine,” perhaps too soon after Herman Cain’s videotaped parody of the same song went viral. Through it all, the fans up front stood up, many with their hands raised, as if witnessing proof of a higher power.