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Fifi on Fire

Fiona Apple, With Damien Rice

at the Greek, June 24

I am to Fiona Apple what a 40-something gay man is to Cher: a drooling, fawning fanatic. Nevertheless, I approached Saturday’s concert with one eyebrow dutifully cocked. And still it was among the most moving live performances I’ve ever attended. With night closing in, Irish opener Damien Rice ambled onto the breezy stage in faded trousers and a loose gray tee and delicately strummed the opening notes of the hit “Cannonball” on a battered acoustic guitar. By the second tune, “Fool” — a folky polka with a throaty moan — the early-bird audience was rapt. Supported by tenuous cello and a drum/bass backbone (regrettably without vocalist Lisa Hannigan), he closed with “I Remember” — body twitching, face flushed, his pillowy whisper ascending into the wails of a newborn. It was no surprise when the house sprang to a dizzy standing ovation.

At nightfall, Apple charged onstage in a floor-skimming ice-blue chiffon dress, chirping a sunny “Hi!” and launching into a funk-driven “Get Him Back,” off her gold-selling Extraordinary Machine. To watch Apple perform live is to witness dramatic abilities that would shame the feigned emotions of the most Oscar-hungry thespians. The otherwise shy chanteuse chillingly howls raw tantrums of unrequited love, and plumbs her subconscious with smoky vocals and intimate lyrics seemingly sung for the first time. Drawing equally from her three albums, she delivered a whimsically chagrined “Tymps,” skipped and tripped through a downtempo “Fast as You Can,” slumped at the stage’s foot to croon “Slow Like Honey,” and wrapped up her encore with a gravelly, larynx-shredding version of “Criminal” — peaking levels on the sound board and dancing as if evading a swarm of bees. During this final number, the rubber wore off the woman’s charged wires: She sparked and hissed, mouthing language that would stun a trucker and admonishing herself off-mike. Sure, everyone expects at least one meltdown per Fiona Apple show, but having drained more life from her mouth than most do in a lifetime, one can hardly blame the girl.

—Alie Ward


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