See also: Our Fiona Apple slideshow
It's hard to be a Fiona Apple fan sometimes. Half a decade can go by between tours, and the notoriously reclusive singer-pianist has released only four albums since emerging as a teenage phenom in 1994. Apple's latest album, The Idler Wheel . . ., is her first full-length work since 2005's Extraordinary Machine, and she hasn't toured widely in six years.
At least her L.A. followers have had the chance to catch Apple's occasional sets at Largo at the Coronet over the past few years. But as much fun as those surprise shows have been, with Apple letting her hair down and romping it up with informal covers by the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, she generally pulls only one or two originals out of her deep paper bag of tricks. The demand to hear her own songs has only grown to the point where her more fanatic fans were ready to practically explode by the time the singer and her four-piece band finally walked out on the Palladium's large stage.For all of the sweetly charming melodies that lie at the heart of many of Apple's songs, there's also a sonically heavy and emotionally and powerfully raw side to her. That duality was reflected in the makeup of the largely female audience at the Palladium. Some were meek and gentle folks who hung on shyly to every psychic twist and turn of Apple's artful lyrics. Others spilled their drinks on bystanders and pushed their way across the universe of the crowded ballroom floor, whooping and hollering as if they were at a Ted Nugent concert. A six-year wait for their patron saint of lust & longing was enough to drive many of them crazy with overdriven excitement.
"I'm sorry I was late," Apple said to the capacity crowd, trying her best not to come off like a diva. "It was my fault."
She and her four-piece band started things off raucously with a driving version of "Fast as You Can." When the group kicked into a different part, most of the audience on the floor began swaying immediately en masse to the tempo shift, as if by compulsion. Halfway through the song, Apple moved away from her mic stand and sat at her black piano while Blake Mills (who'd opened the night with a set of subtle, sublimely muted and mellow reveries) unleashed a luridly wailing guitar solo.You could hear Apple's heartbreak in the desperate howls of the next song, "On the Bound," where she further demolished the sensitive singer-songwriter stereotype. Her romantic pain was bare and exposed and almost embarrassing to witness, but there was something triumphant and cathartic in the way she managed to survive and put her heart back together.
With its dreamy piano tolling, "Shadowboxer," from Apple's 1996 debut album, Tidal, was another early favorite, drawing squeals from the madding crowd. People were overjoyed to hear Apple in such good voice on the last night of her tour, but the bonhomie didn't always extend to the other fans. One overly zealous shutterbug, clicking away obliviously, was admonished by a woman to put his camera away and just "enjoy the music." Nearby, a pair of dancers pogoed as if they were at a punk show, and several girls pushing their way late into the tightly packed throng provoked some ugly name calling and nearly started a fight.