Singer-songwriter Mark Hole kicked off the show with an energetic performance of 'Dirty’s What I Like'. While his songs wouldn’t sound amiss on the soundtrack of shows like Grey’s Anatomy, he gave a uniquely compelling performance. He exuded confidence, and the audience clearly responded.

Songs like 'Tori Tour', dedicated to the headliner, and 'Torture Garden' demonstrated his ability to take traumatic life events and spin them into musical gold. His style may not be for everyone, but he’s very good at what he does. He did a great job warming up the audience for the star of the show.

Twenty years strong into her career, Tori Amos retains her capacity to surprise.

For the last decade, Tori seemed to have lost much of her spark, delivering bloated albums that were not without their thrills but desperately needed editing. She seemed to give in to a softness in both her voice and her songwriting, barbs buried deep below layers of overproduction. However, her new union with classical music outfit Deutsche Gramophone has clearly reinvigorated both her creativity and her performance. Some of the highlights of the show at the Hammersmith Apollo were, in fact, reworked versions of songs from her latter albums.

Stripped of the honky-tonk guitars, even headscratchers like 'Big Wheel' took on a new, exciting life. The string players were dancing, and so was the audience. And that wasn’t the first time. It was a seated show, and there were at least 5 different occasions where audience members were clearly itching to move their bodies. Tori looked like she was having a great time, and the Apollon Musagete Quartet couldn’t have given a more energetic performance. Still, there was plenty of space for fan favorites both big and small. She played not one but three rare b-sides ('Ode to the Banana King', 'Ruby Through the Looking Glass' and 'Never Seen Blue'), and squeezed in a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s 'Landslide'. But the most unexpected treats were new versions of songs from From the Choirgirl Hotel. In that record, which included Tori’s biggest UK hit, 'Raspberry Swirl', she dabbled in darkwave and techno sounds, which may sound directly at odds with an organic string quartet. But the fine boys of the Quartet took the challenge and excelled, even tapping the percussion parts on their instruments. By the time they finished, it was hard to believe that this wasn’t how 'Spark' and 'Cruel' are meant to be performed. Songs from Tori’s latest album, Night of Hunters, came to brilliant and dramatic life.

This is my 6th Tori Amos show over the last ten years, and I can say, without qualification, that her live show has never been better. As for the general atmosphere, I’m on record as saying that the Apollo is my favorite London venue. As always, the sound and stage show were perfect. But the staff seemed unnecessarily disruptive, walking directly in front of the audience at various points and blocking the view.