Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fiona Apple at the Winstar: this is not about hash

"Fiona Apple doesn't perform her songs -- they escape. "

That is the prevailing rhetoric surrounding Fiona Apple's current Idler Wheel tour, recent arrest notwithstanding. And it's a fitting sentiment, one that Apple perpetuates in each of her performances thus far, and it's a telling one, too, that she has reached a point as a performer that critics are no longer labeling her performance as performances. No, they go to the top shelf of their vocabulary when Fiona comes through town. But it fits. She is an enigma, disappearing from the scene and emerging seven years later with a heart-wrenching album of raw and intimate songs.  

When she stands behind the mic, you can hear the intensity in her voice, see it in her thin body as pounds at her chest during a verse, feel it as she crouches down on the stage, contemplating or what-have-you during a interlude. Her fingers fly and bounce atop the keys of the piano.
Image Courtesy of Pegasus News

This was most certainly an event built upon catharsis.

And while the most recent album is very intimate and strange, most songs featuring just Apple, a piano, and percussion, the new material erupts just a bit on stage. Part of that is in Apple's electrifying presence and part of that is in her air-tight backing band. The quartet and Apple work through the singer's entire catalog, reworking some tunes to great effect. During Daredevil, Fiona even toyed with a drum set up by her piano during an extended outro, pounding on it with a pair of mallets and with the same ferocity with which she clutches at her chest when she sings.

There was not much in the way of stage banter. Toward the end of the show, however, a few members of the adoring crowd shouted, "We love you, Fiona!" To which, she retorted, "I fucking need you." And maybe she does need us, and we need her as well. There is a give-and-take between artist and audience, and Fiona Apple understands that better than anyone.

After a beautiful rendition of Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe", Apple grabbed something from the stage, made her arms into wings, and flew off stage without an encore. For a singer so in tune with emotional distress, it was a beautiful moment and wonderful conclusion to an excellent night.

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