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Friday, July 27, 2012

Live Review: Fiona Apple at the Schnitz

Posted by Courtney Ferguson on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 12:10 PM

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Fiona Apple was in my dreams last night. Her music and her face—it was a colorful, beautiful-sounding blur. Not surprising, considering how spellbinding her show at the Schnitzer was last night. She wove some sort of harrowing enchantment over the packed theater, howling and gyrating across the stage as her full band backed her. I'd never seen her before, but I've heard the stories of her performances, so it didn't bode well when her tardy appearance was explained away because she was "waiting for a tampon" in the tour bus. Which was an interesting aside, especially combined with the little-kid-costume she was wearing—a XXL red T-shirt fashioned into a cape and a bright blue apron thing over a shiny black maxi dress. Then that voice. Oh, that voice. She started belting out her songs standing behind the microphone stand, and all concerning trifles about a shaky performance were instantaneously zapped away. She sounds better now than she ever has.

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After a couple songs and a couple of crumples to the floor (in the name of dancing), Fiona moved to her piano. Girl's got an interesting way of playing that thing. It looks so haphazard at times, like she's playing a Theremin. She started the set off with a lot of back catalog material, mostly from Extraordinary Machine and When the Pawn..., slowly working her way to the new material from the awesome The Idler Wheel.... She played a drum bit with mallets on "Daredevil," punctuated with her unhinged "Seek me out, look at, look at, look at, look at me, I'm all the fishes in the sea." It was mesmerizing. The few times I was able to tear my eyes away during the nearly two hours, I caught Marjorie worrying her hands in her lap. "Daredevil" was just one in a series of kick-ass songs—some others that stuck: "Every Single Night," "Werewolf," "Fast as You Can," "Get Gone," "Not About Love," and my eyes leaked a little on "I Know." Even without that goofy cape, her powerful warbling contralto voice makes her a superhero.

I'll be brief here, because this has nothing to do with how incredible the show was—besides sounding like a house on fire, the light show was fantastic (with tons of curated chiaroscuro lights and fog). Fiona Apple puts on a helluva show, but there's a reason people worry about her (to paraphrase the recent WTF interview with Marc Maron). She is alarmingly thin. Like skeleton skinny. Her skull was poking out, her arms are pure muscle because there's no fat on them, and her long hair is lank like she's not getting enough nutrients. Please eat, Fiona. Now I'm one of those people worried about you.

Anyway. That was the best show I've seen this year (the Afghan Whigs have their work cut out for them in November). She even ended with the best possible encore situation. We got a warning that "Not About Love" was to be the last song. Clap, clap, clap! Then lo, we get a bonus song (a cover of Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe"). No degrading standing around hooting for the band to finish smoking a spliff in the tour bus. That's class.

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