Tori Amos conjured many moments of delicate beauty with her ethereal voice and elegant piano playing during the Boston stop of her Lottapianos Tour at the FleetBoston Pavilion on Sunday night. But from her famously provocative postures to the British invasion-style screams that filled the sold-out arena, this was no understated recital. Amos came off as more rock star than chanteuse.
Amos began her career-spanning two-hour set with “A Sorta Fairytale,” looking relaxed and happy as she entered to a sultry, calypso-tinged beat played by bassist Jon Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain. The song gained intensity as Amos’s voice nimbly ascended from frail prettiness to animal howl. Colored spotlights, wafting smoke, and drifting projections set a graceful mood well-matched to her music. With her trademark fiery hair, Amos glowed at the center of the stage.
Even more than her elaborate trills and pounding bass notes, Amos’s tough, silvery voice held court. She sounded flirty and fragile on “Professional Widow,” creating drama with her hand gestures as her voice topped rippling piano and rattling drums.
“Father Lucifer” became a funky rocker with an elastic bass line as Amos played her electronic keyboard and piano together, perched on her bench as if it were a horse. The fervent piano opening to “Cornflake Girl” elicited a roar from the audience, while “Rattlesnakes” began slow and sultry, then kicked in as a gentle rocker behind Amos’s effects-shadowed voice.
At the set’s heart, Amos played solo piano on the mournful yet resilient B-side “Seaside,” with its undulating vocal melody, and her velvety version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”
The trancelike mood was broken by the rollicking “Take to the Sky,” during which Amos burst into the spirited chorus from Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.”
Amos closed with “Precious Things,” building the song to rock heights and rising to work the crowd as she grabbed her crotch suggestively.
The resonant piano and snaking groove of her 1994 hit “God” began the first of her two encores, which included an intense yet playful “Suede” and ended with the stripped-down ballad “Your Cloud.”
Opener Ben Folds seemed more junior high music teacher than rock star as he playfully conducted the audience’s participation on several songs. He easily wooed the crowd with his smart, funny lyrics and deft piano playing on songs including his alternative-rock hit “Brick.”