Saturday night, the Midland theater was filled with some of her most devoted fans, but Tori Amos was the most enthusiastic person in the room. As usual.
For an hour and 45 minutes, she took a crowd of nearly 2,000 on a tour of her inimitable music — ornate pop/folk arias rendered in piano and electric keyboards — visiting eight of her 14 studio albums, including “Unrepentant Geraldines,” released in May.
She opened with “Parasol,” a track from “The Beekeeper” album, now 9 years old. From there, the set list hopped about her vast catalog, going back as far as “Little Earthquakes,” her debut, released in 1992. She performed the title track from that album late in the show, arousing the first loud ovation of the night and drawing nearly everyone on the floor out of their seats and onto their feet.
Amos is a captivating, emotional and unique performer. Throughout the show, she straddled her piano bench, thrusting herself into each song with earnest melodrama, as if she were physically interpreting each lyric. She went back and forth between piano and keyboard, playing both in several songs and even playing both simultaneously for some.
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Saturday’s show was her first performance in Kansas City since July 2009, so there was palpable anticipation in the air before the show. The crowd was intensely attentive, listening closely and quietly while watching her every move. Occasionally, the silence was punctured with a shout of affection or gratitude. And every song received a prolonged ovation.
Amos has been dropping lots of covers into her set lists on this tour, but this evening she played only two during a “Lizard Lounge” interlude. Both were a nod to “The Wizard of Oz,” though she wasn’t in Kansas: Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” followed by a porcelain rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”
“Little Earthquakes” brought the crowd to its feet, but “Cornflake Girl,” a romping piano anthem, aroused the biggest ovation. If she has a hit single, that’s it. It closed her first set, but she quickly returned for a four-song encore, starting with “Take to the Sky.” She provided her own percussion on that one, pounding the piano with one hand while the other danced about the keys.
She sent the crowd home with “1,000 Oceans,” a sorrowful lament about love, departure and loss. “I’ve cried 1,000 oceans,” she sang. “And I’d cry 1,000 more, if that’s what it takes to sail you home.”
Not many tears were shed at the Midland on Saturday night, but plenty of raw emotion was expressed, and most of it came from the diminutive redhead at the piano.
Parasol; Caught a Lite Sneeze; God; Pandora’s Aquarium; Oysters; Here in My Head; China; Dragon; Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; Over the Rainbow; Beauty of Speed; Your Cloud; Little Earthquakes; Not the Red Baron; Another Girl’s Paradise; Cornflake Girl. Encore: Take to the Sky; Bouncing Off Clouds; Wedding Day; 1,000 Oceans.