Gone with the Wind

Keri Carlson

In support of her seventh album, “Scarlet’s Walk,” piano maven Tori Amos captivated a full audience at Northrop Auditorium on Saturday night. Backed by bassist Jon Evans and Matt Chamberlain on drums, Amos performed a 23-song set in two hours.

Opening for Amos was 21-year-old singer/songwriter Howie Day. With his raspy voice, Day warmed up the audience with several songs off his debut album “Australia.” Day also livened up his guitar-only performance by commanding numerous delay pedals with his feet, which gave the effect of a backing band.

Amos then took the audience on a journey through her songs, opening the evening with the a capella “wampum prayer” from her latest album and ending with “Tear in Your Hand” from her 1992 debut album, “Little Earthquakes,” in a second encore.

Though most of the songs performed were from “Scarlet’s Walk,” Amos sang a handful of B-side tunes from 1994’s “Under the Pink” and a crowd-pleasing cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat.”

The highlight of the evening was when the songstress was left alone onstage. Despite playing with a band on her last several albums, Amos returned to her roots by flawlessly performing “China” with just the piano. This refreshing piece reminded the faithful why they fell in love with Amos all those years ago.

Backed by her band, Amos presented the beautifully sad “your cloud” from her latest album. With blue, slow-moving mood lighting, the song wrapped itself around audience members, bringing them deeper into Amos’ world.

Usually known as somewhat of a chatterer during her performances, Amos let the music do the talking this time around. She did, however, perform several impromptu songs to communicate with the audience, notably one to let the sound engineer know her Bösendorfer was resonating. In another, she mentioned the cold Minnesota air, noting, “You really wake up coming up here.”

Unfortunately, to the untrained ear, most of Amos’ vocals sounded like incoherent gasps and moans. During rock renditions of “Girl” and “Crucify,” Amos’ yells were unrecognizable as the original lyrics. Her message was only obvious to devoted Amos fans, who hung on to each breath as though it might be her last.

As she has done for the past 10 years, Amos shimmied and squirmed on her piano without the slightest bit of irony. For Amos, the sexuality of her music comes across naturally and does not need to be choreographed. During “Cornflake Girl,” she growled and quaked with candor.

Although Amos has been called everything from a high priestess to a fruit loop, she remains a dedicated artist whose music has inspired dozens of newcomers. With her stripped-down lyrics and exquisite musicianship (during several songs she played both piano and electronic keyboard, one hand on each), her voice has aged gracefully, allowing her to continue her quest for revealing the truth.

Tori Amos, Saturday, Nov. 30, Northrop Auditorium

Kari Petrie welcomes comments at [email protected]