Fiona Apple and Blake Mills
Better Than…Fiona's tears
It's been a tough few months for Fiona Apple. At the end of August, the singer-songwriter stormed off stage at a fashion show in Tokyo after asking the audience on several occasions to pipe down (they didn't). On Thursday, she kicked a crowd member out of Portland's Newmark Theatre for shouting out, “Get healthy, we want to see you in 10 years!” Apple later left the stage in tears.
At Walt Disney Concert Hall last night she was joined by guitarist and composer Blake Mills, as well as
a cellist an upright bassist and a drummer. Things went better for her, and the behavior of the crowd had much to do with that.
Wearing a lavender floral dress, fuchsia tights, black ankle boots and short bobbed hair — which she admitted she chopped off because of stress — her cheeks were noticeably sunken and her arms looked thin.
Between songs she disclosed that she had “borrowed” some objects from her hotel room and attempted to morph them into instruments, playing a wooden statue like a wood block and a glass vase like a drum. She even called critic Rex Reed a cunt. But overall she seemed to be in a safe place; this 15 date “Anything We Want” tour was inspired by her beloved Largo — a club she often frequents — where cell phone use and cameras are banned and the audience tends to be warmer. Last night's audience was indeed good to her, and in return she performed a breathtaking, straight-from-the-heart hour-and-a-half long set.
Her setlist was somewhat unconventional. She didn't play many singles, opting instead to showcase songs off her 2012 comeback album The Idler Wheel… and test out new material written by both herself and Mills.
They began the set with “Tipple,” before Apple delved into “The First Taste,” one of only two songs that were not brand new or featured on her latest record. The crowd roared while she sang “Every Single Night” and she confessed, “I just wanna feel everything,” during the song's bridge. It was hard not to feel goosebumps.
When Mills took his turn to showcase songs off his newly recorded album, Apple slumped over a bass drum and pounded to the beat, but as soon as she returned to the microphone her eyes lit up and she was in her zone.
This was even more apparent when she was in front of the piano. She's still as gifted a songwriter as ever, and the arpeggio roller coaster that is “I Want You To Love Me,” exemplified that. Amidst spiraling piano progressions, Apple called out to her potential lover with a strong voice. She hit every note from the chiming falsetto of “Waltz (Better Than Fine)” to the guttural, gritty screams of “Regret.”
Together, she and Mills played around with jazz, avant-pop, and jangling southern rock, and they excelled at each. Before beginning a twangy new song, “Seven,” Mills mentioned that her vocals sound like Dolly Parton in the duet. And he was right.
Fans shouted out, but to say, “I love you,” or request songs. In the end they gave her a standing ovation; she thanked everyone repeatedly and looked genuinely joyful.
Personal Bias: I'm all for everyone getting over Apple's weirdness and focusing on the brilliance of her music.
The Crowd: Respectful
Random Notebook Dump: The Walt Disney Concert Hall is an amazing venue with amazing sound and an amazing atmosphere, but a really irritating parking garage.
Set list below:
Tipple (new song co-written by Blake Mills)
The First Taste
Every Single Night
Unworthy (Blake Mills)
Anything We Want
It'll All Work Out
I Want You To Love Me (new song)
It's Only Make Believe (Conway Twitty cover)
Seven (duet with Blake Mills)
Don't Tell Our Friends About Us (Blake Mills)
Waltz (Better Than Fine)