When the majority of the venue offer up a standing ovation before anyone has played a single note, it’s clear the Toriphiles are still as devoted as ever, and frankly with good reason. Tori is a master of recreation and though it’s her more angry early works which have always won my vote, tonight she ranges through a 20 year back catalogue with the help of a 56 strong orchestra. What’s striking is that most of the songs feel as though they were originally built for this style of rendition, Tori’s classical background merging (on the most part) effortlessly with the arrangements of John Philip Shenale.
Like the album, there’s some sense that this is geared more towards long term fans. As she opens with the B side Flying Dutchman, though the song is granted heavy strings, the focus is still firmly on the vocals and piano, the orchestra adding to the sound rather than detracting from it. Still, after an error and a restart there are a few moments which vocally lose a little power. The line “they say you’ll never be anything, what will you do with your life” seems almost rushed, and perhaps a little too upbeat.
This lack of vocal ferocity occurs elsewhere. For me, the anger in some of the songs from Little Earthquakes is lacking, especially during Precious Things and Silent All The Years. The former feels almost too Pomp and Circumstance and the band are left to add the pain in the latter. It leaves lines which need the force of Tori’s rage left to fall flat, and though the audience seem primed to yell along to what’s perhaps Tori’s most trademark line as she moves towards the refrain “so you can make me cum, that doesn’t make you Jesus”, they’re given little opportunity to do so.
Nevertheless, elsewhere the addition of the orchestra is simply sublime. The subtle percussion in Jackie’s Strength and the war which almost erupts between Tori and the orchestra in Cloud On My Tongue, do just as Tori wished, and re-imagine the songs with great effect. The solo rendition (and only song which has varied throughout the tour) of Ribbons Undone is delivered towards it’s subject (Tori’s daughter, Tash) seated in the balcony, adding extra poignancy. Meanwhile, Gold Dust is ridden with sorrow and Marianne is treated to a building sound from the orchestra and a heavy dose of strings at the start, which transforms it from a number which has often washed over me to a new favourite.
With Tori still maintaining her trademark style, jointly playing both piano and keyboard whilst perched on her stool and with her voice as powerful and dynamic as it was 20 years ago, overall my gripes are minor. It’s clear that Tori is still a force to be reckoned with, able to connect emotionally with both her music and fans alike. The orchestra, Jules Buckley’s seemingly effortless conducting, and the new life which has been granted to various songs simply highlight that even after some 20 years, the songs are as fresh and relevant as they ever were.
(photo by @substandardnerd)