Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fiona Apple, last night at the Midland

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2012 at 10:37 AM

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Earlier this week, the comedian Marc Maron posted a podcast with Fiona Apple that answered a few questions about her: Why she speaks so quickly and frantically, and — at least in part — what makes her so creative. Apple has been dealing with what seems to be a heavy, albeit managed, case of OCD for her entire life, which affects almost everything she does. Throughout the podcast, she was a little difficult to follow, her voice low and whispering one moment, then frenzied the next. You could see some of these qualities during her show last night at the Midland.

The few times that she directly addressed the crowd, she spoke manically and rapidly, wishing a band member happy birthday, or saying that she hoped that we were having fun. Her jumpy nature wasn’t surprising — what was surprising was that when she performs, she seems to center. There is utter control.

Apple claims that one of the only places she goes out when she is at home in Los Angeles is to a club called Largo, where she performs relatively regularly and where she met most of the members of her touring band. That she plays regularly with these musicians was immediately apparent. Her set opened with the complex, beat-heavy “Fast as You Can,” off her 1999 album When the Pawn.... The band substituted bongos and snares for the electronic drums.

While deft on the piano, Apple’s truest instrument is her voice. She sang, warbled, growled and shrieked her way through material from each of her four albums, not interested in making every moment pretty, though much of it was. She hardened the jazzy “Sleep to Dream” and “Get Gone” into aggressively lovely, percussive rock songs, thrashing her body from side to side and holding herself as she sang.

The crowd (surprisingly not as heavily female as expected) ate up the show, shouting their love for her throughout the set. Her ability to lay herself bare, problems and all, buys Apple a tremendous amount of goodwill from her fans. “Every Single Night,” off her new album, The Idler Wheel, displays, like a good number of her songs, a remarkable self-awareness about who and what she is: If what I am is what I am because I does what I does / Then brother get back, 'cause my breast’s about to bust open. Other highlights included the dark, lovely “Daredevil,” “Extraordinary Machine” and “Not About Love.”

Apple worried during Maron’s interview that she too often is called a “creature” rather than a girl — yet whether she likes it, that’s what she is. She is unusual, uncontained, and perhaps a little to angsty to be loved by everyone. But that churning brain and unrestrained creativity make for quite an artist and, last night, one of the finest performances of the year.

Set List:

Fast as You Can
On the Bound
Shadowboxer
Paper Bag
Anything We Want
Get Gone
Sleep to Dream
Extraordinary Machine
Werewolf
Used to Love Him
Daredevil
I Know
Every Single Night
Not About Love
Carrion
Criminal
It’s Only Make Believe (Conway Twitty)

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