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At the Orpheum, Tori Amos and an enthralled crowd share more than a feeling

Tori Amos performs at the Orpheum Theatre Saturday night.Mary Schwalm for The Boston Globe

Saturday night’s Tori Amos concert at the Orpheum Theatre, her first Boston show in five years, was a triumph for both the singer-songwriter and the audience, who were ready to shower her with fervent adulation from the moment the house lights dimmed. Pivoting between her Bösendorfer piano and a collection of electronic keyboards (the piano also had a small synthesizer sitting upon it), Amos, backed by her longtime bassist (and Cape Cod denizen) Jon Evans and new percussionist Ash Soan, responded in kind for the next two hours with precision-grade playing and waves of appreciation.

Amos’s career-spanning set, which ended with two tracks from her 1992 solo debut “Little Earthquakes” and included four cuts from her latest album, last year’s “Ocean to Ocean,” showed how her artistic trajectory has both evolved and come full circle over the last three-plus decades. It drew bright lines between earlier tracks like the shattering “Precious Things” and later offerings like the sprawling, flipped-gospel “Ocean” track “Devil’s Bane,” and showed how Amos’s catalog is a rich well from which a listener (as well as a set-list-crafter) can draw.


Tori Amos performed a career-spanning two-hour show at the Orpheum Theatre.Mary Schwalm for The Boston Globe

“Ocean to Ocean,” Amos’s 16th album, is a meditation on loss and grief that counters its unsettling subject matter with lush instrumentation and pointed poetry. Its title track, which despairs over the planet’s ruin while hissing toward “those who don’t give a goddamn/that we’re near mass extinction” and “those who don’t give a goddamn/for the profit that they’re making,” landed with even more resonance amid the grim headlines of early 2022. (Similarly, “Russia,” a selection from 2017′s “Native Invader” that asks “those in Washington” the question “Is Stalin on your shoulder?” had added weight, coming hours after a rally for abortion rights took place just outside the Orpheum’s doors.) “Spies,” a surrealistic lullaby with a kinetic beat, was even more lively in concert, with the song’s delightfully baroque bridge retaining the recorded version’s archness while sounding slightly more stripped-down.


Near the end of the show, Amos had a surprise: The tour debut of “Secret Spell,” a cut from 2007′s mythology-imbued “American Doll Posse” that follows a woman who keeps pushing, despite obstacles and disappointments littering the road behind her. On Saturday Amos acted as both chronicler and comforter until she got to the key lyric “girl, you got to do a 180″ — and the song itself took Amos’ advice, with her and her bandmates launching into an enthusiastic take on Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” that turned into an extended call-and-response. It was one of the show’s many joyful moments of communion, led by an artist whose singular body of work has inspired others to conjure their own “secret spells” within.


With Companion. At Orpheum Theatre, May 14

Maura Johnston can be reached at maura@maura.com.