June 28th, 2012
Ms. Apple put on a great show last night, cranking through a long set with a heady mix of all four of her records. We saw, heard and learned some things and here they are:
1. This was not a show in which she only peddled songs from her new record, which was a bit of a surprise. One kind of assumes that Fiona’s got a feeling or two about doing past songs, the songs that everyone wants to hear no matter how tired and played-out they may be to her: “Sleep To Dream,” “Criminal,” or “Shadowboxer,” especially. But she played them all, and not without feeling. She started with “Fast As You Can,” a ferocious version of “On The Bound,” “Shadowboxer,” and “Paper Bag.”
2. Speaking of “Paper Bag,” it was a reminder that this song is, in fact, vocally, a feat of acrobatics. It is a delicate song with rises and falls, loads of notes in between, and she pretty much hit every one of them with full control of her breath and tone. Her vocals, pretty much throughout, were stellar and perhaps she’s gaining more control and power with age. We may have been waiting for the songs that brought out the vocal that felt maniacal, just barely controlled, and so emotionally urgent that her voice box got strained and stretched. But she rarely got there.
3. “Anything We Want” was the first song that she played from the new record, The Idler Wheel…. It employed a stand-up bass and is a considerably slower, softer and quieter song. But it was NOT boring or sleepy. Just about every song, no matter the pace or volume, was not quiet because of her tremendous backing band with two guitar-shredding dudes (one who pulled out a half-dozen eye-popping solos), a drummer, a multi-instrumentalist and an additional pianist/organist. This song, performed live, brought to life and emphasized a favorite couplet from the new one: “Let’s pretend we’re eight years old playin’ hooky / I draw on the wall and you can play UFC rookie.”
4. The songs from When The Pawn… kind of stole the show. “Get Gone” was no exception. It’s full of curses and anger and she brought it to the piano. In fact, she didn’t play a very many songs on the piano and stood and sang a lot in front of a standing mic at the front of the stage. So the songs where she did bang on the piano felt extraordinary. Everyone was waiting for her command, on that song, of “Fucking GO!” It’s fantastic.
5. Even though When The Pawn… songs are angry, generally, it’s the new album’s tracks that feel truly connected to her. She seems to identify and FEEL these songs most intensely as evidenced in her delivery and clenched fists. “Werewolf” was an extremely powerful performance with the repetition of “there’s nothing wrong with a song that ends in a minor key.” As if to say, you know what, sometimes things don’t end all nice and neatly. Sometimes there’s not a happy ending, but a dismal and depressing one. Truth.
6. “Daredevil” may have been the very best performance from the new record. The pacing and dramatic tempo-play translated beautifully live, with a pitter-pattering drum and her vocal introducing the track before the rest of the band chimes in. Again, the vocal delivery was precise, audible, and impressive, especially for the freakouts towards the middle/end. “Seek me out / Look at, look at, look at, look at me” she pleads, and then “Give me, give me, give me, give me what you got.” The urgency in her voice, the immediacy of her connection with the new songs feels palpable.
7. In the new single (that has a video,) “Every Single Night,” during the chorus yelps where she sings about “My friends,” her voice does these runs where she emphasizes the very end of “friends” with a tick-up in her voice. It feels tribal. Seriously, with that style of vocal she sounds like a mystic, a shaman, a witch, a chanter. She would be a great asset for a cult that values chanting.
8. She reminds us of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. She’s fit and has some skinny but muscly arms. She must be doing yoga or something. She jumped around that stage only a few times but seems to at least be fit enough to scream out about 17 songs in an hour and a half.
9. Unfortunately, she finished the set with a few songs that felt a bit poorly-chosen. She threw in “Criminal” second-to-last, but it didn’t sizzle because it was sandwiched with songs from Extraordinary Machine and a cover (that was hard to identify). The EM songs are just forgettable, except for the title track (which she did earlier in the night, and beautifully). If anything, the band saved her finish. That drummer was great and there’s no way this show would’ve been a success without a reliable and capable percussionist.
10. No encore. Not even a hint of one. “We’re done!” she exclaimed and the house lights came on. “Hot Knife” would’ve made for a great encore song.