Only in the rigorously conceived world of Tori Amos can a piano and an organ, facing each other onstage, represent the tenuous balance between male and female and furthermore (fasten your seat belts) function as one story-strand in a series of parables on a theme of attaining wholeness without deferring to power structures.
To the uninitiated, it was just a concert. To the Tori faithful, last night's one-woman show for a packed, estrogen-heavy crowd at the Orpheum was two hours of enchanted transmissions from pop's long-reigning faerie queen. The business of wholeness is investigated in melodious detail on Amos's recent album, ''The Beekeeper," where the songs are grouped into six garden themes. Six is a number that reflects the hexagon shape of the cells in a beehive as well as the six days of creation, and careful set-list scribblers -- odds are good that in this group there were more than a few -- surely reveled in the fact that Amos played six songs from the new disc. Gender relations may be tenuous, but in Amos's musical cosmos nothing is accidental.
After materializing in a hot white beam of light with her hands in prayer position, Amos seated herself between her beloved Bosendorfer grand piano and a Hammond B3 organ and played one elliptical ballad after the next, beginning with ''Original Sinsuality," the artist's version of Genesis. Like the rest of ''The Beekeeper," the song was lovely and arty -- a far cry from the stark, edgy music Amos was making a decade ago. Without the benefit of the inspired duo that backed her at the Tsongas Arena in 2002, a certain constancy of mood took hold.
There were no cloudbursts of emotion, no scalding reworkings of early gems, and only a few standouts in a set saturated with endless lush chords and carefully-articulated poetry. ''Sweet the Sting" -- a sultry number undoubtedly packed with metaphors and symbolism but which sounded a whole lot like a celebration of sex over 40 -- quivered brilliantly. On ''Little Amsterdam," from 1996's wildly impressionistic ''Boys For Pele," she straddled the bench between her keyboards, back arched, rolling a bass line on the piano with her left hand and splashing in the upper register of the organ with her right. Amos has been taking requests for covers on her website, and last night she put her indelible stamp on dark, brooding renditions of the Eurythmics' ''Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and Joni Mitchell's ''River."
But only rarely did Amos lasso the urgency that once defined her. When she did, as on the title track from the new album, the simple sound of the artist sucking in her breath seemed to promise cosmic-grade revelations.
Joan Anderman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org