“[On the 2011 Night of Hunters Tour] “Suede” grabbed me by the hand,” Amos said of the ever-changing tune that has been performed live in a number of variations since its 1999 debut on To Venus and Back. “The Apollon Musagete Quartett—the Fab Four—they can play anything really, and that was why the choice was made to have them, a classical quartet, over a contemporary quartet because we knew they could play the Night of Hunters material. They were there for the recording of that album as part of the octet. And even though they hadn’t played pop music, it was just kind of presumed that if the dots are the page, they can play it.
“So Philly—that’s what I call John Philip Shenale [the arranger of all things string-related in Amos’ catalogue]—our relationship is as if we’re two old men in the 19th century sitting in Vienna having coffee looking at babes walk by. We have long beards and all that. And you know I snag babes more than he does, but I help him out. So “Suede” had grabbed me by the arm and she said, ‘You need me, narratively. I bring something that very few of the songs bring. I can bring a pivot. I can take this into a dark place.’
“I really felt like that it worked well with ‘Shattering Sea’, [that tour’s opening song] so I was setting up the evening to take you into the woman’s story, the protagonist in Night of Hunters, I was trying to get you into her shattered life. I felt as if I wanted it to have an impact. ‘Suede’ was usually the second full song of the show, and there had to be a tuning moment for the quartet. It was a very technical moment, so that’s why I would throw in a short song in between in order to get to the next song. I just felt I didn’t want the second song to go on too long. I wanted it to have the drama it needed to have and not bog us down. I love the ‘little sister’ bit, but ‘Suede’ had a very particular role in opening the show after ‘Shattering Sea’.”
It is this 2011 version with the quartet that we consider the finest live representation of “Suede” to date. Close runners-up are a stunning solo performance on Jools Holland from 1999—Amos’ chilly demeanor and almost robotic handling of her Kurzweil synthesizer as she sang against a backing tape of the song’s ominous instrumental accompaniment—and again as Pip on the 2007 American Doll Posse, tour where she brought an extra-tough, raspy edge to the original’s slinky, quietly turbulent blue moonlight.
// Notes from the Road
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