In the past thirty or so days I’ve had the opportunity to catch two shows that I thought would never happen. Last month Jeff Mangum came into town and played two amazing shows after almost fifteen years of laying low. Last night Fiona Apple emerged from hiding to play one of a few shows outside of LA in about six years (I want to say her last major tour was opening for Coldplay, but I could be wrong). With both concerts I had my doubts about the greatness they could reach, and I was proven wrong on both counts.
The show was billed as “An Evening With Fiona Apple”. Generally labeling something in such a way means there is no opener, but there was. Blake Mills is his name, and as it turns out he’s one hell of a guitar player. He came to the stage late, at about ten or fifteen after eight, and announced that he was feeling sick and would only be playing a couple songs. From what I could tell through these songs, I like him. He has a sly wit about him, and he can really get some good sounds out of that guitar. He apologized profusely, and then left the stage a little before twenty to nine.
Surprisingly the wait for the main show was short. Ten or fifteen minutes max. Then Fiona’s band came out, and whaddya know, there’s Blake Mills back playing guitar. Also joining Fiona on stage was Sebastian on upright bass, a female drummer and a guy sitting in the very back creating soundscapes with synths that normal instruments can’t make.
The opening song was “Fast As You Can” off the When The Pawn album, and any trepidations I had about the quality of the show went out the window. At first I was kinda pissed that there was a band behind her because I just wanted Fiona and her piano. After about thirty seconds I knew that a show like that would be boring as hell in comparison. This version of “Fast As You Can” really breathed new life into a song that I didn’t like initially but have grown to love. We captured the song, and you can hear it by giving us a “Like” on Facebook.
After that song Fiona made her way behind the keys for a version of “On The Bound” that I thought was one of the highlights of the night. Her voice was as good as ever, and hearing it live I actually liked it better than I do on record. This song is another off When The Pawn, which got the heaviest play of the night. The first four songs came from the album, the next two being “Paper Bag” and “A Mistake.”
The next couple songs were new ones that you may have heard if you watched videos of her performance at SxSw. “Anything We Want” is my favorite of the new songs, but “Valentine” has my favorite new line: “You never got my valentine, I sent it by pantomime.”
The rest of the set included tracks from Extraordinary Machine and three from Tidal. Going in I thought the show would be more Machine-heavy, and I was glad it wasn’t. I do wish she had played a couple more from it, but when the set is only 50 minutes long it doesn’t leave much time for fan requests.
There has always been something about seeing Fiona Apple perform that has fascinated me. From the first time I saw her on SNL and doing crazy twitches and odd spastic movements, I was sure it was a shtick. Now a dozen years later or so, I can say that it is one hundred percent genuine. Her performance is possessed, as of there’s a demon inside her that can only escape through the music. I was hoping to see that, and she delivered in spades.
Set list: # denotes new song
01: Fast As You Can
02: On the Bound
03: Paper Bag
04: A Mistake
05: Anything We Want #
06: Valentine #
07: Sleep To Dream
08: Extraordinary Machine
09: Every Single Night #