Fiona Apple at the Paramount Theatre, 7/20/12
FIONA APPLE @ the PARAMOUNT THEATRE | 7.20.12
Any Fiona Apple concert is a study in contradiction. The audience last night at the Paramount Theatre show was privy to a vast frontier of human emotion, Apple braiding herself in and out of binary worlds, slipping from robust woman in command of a top-shelf band, to a frightened child, unsure of her place on the stage.
From comforting mother to jealous girlfriend, from virtuoso musician to raw animal, Apple grinded her throat while hopping in and out of rhythm. None of this seemed to be incidental. Like her career, Apple appears to never settle on a single path or persona. The only constant is her desire to open up a vein in front of the world, bluntly stating: Here it is, all the power and fear, the desire and disgust. And the crowd loved her for it, most likely wishing they had the courage to be so vulnerable.
After telling the audience they had her permission to love her or hate her, to cry or scream, or even leave if they felt like it (sounding quite similar to the opening of a workshop on sex positivity), a strobe of lights flashed and the band exploded into "Fast As You Can." A set of floor fans blasted into Apples face, billowing a large purple scarf around her upper half, giving her an Ursula the Sea Witch look as she belted "I don't know how to live/ without my hand on his throat/ . . . O darling/ it's so sweet: you think you know how crazy, how crazy I am."
The first four tracks of the night were a 90s bound time machine, delivering crowd-pleasing hits like "On the Bound," "Shadowboxer" and "Paperbag," the decade and a half songs contrasted by her modern style of black jeggings and thin gold belt around a sleeveless black top, though it took at least twenty minutes before we got a good look at the outfit, seeing as she held the guarded posture of a frightened kindergartner during these older songs. When "Anything We Want" came around, the manically percussive ballad from her new album -- the lengthy title of which would throw this sentence off kilter -- her arms fell behind her back, and she swayed with a confidence and charm to contrast her previous fragility.
Whether it was a blinding rager or a tender ballad, the audience roared their praise at Fiona Apple, almost assaulting her with it, like she was the Pope or Morrissey. From delicately stylish women to burly men with voices like lumberjacks shouting into a canyon, the cries of "I LOVE YOU FIONAAAAA!" awkwardly punctuated the theater approximately every fifteen seconds.
After the band drifted into a grimy, humid jam session following "Sleep to Dream," -- with Apple going into a druggy, shamanic dance, like an Amazonian ballerina -- gears were once again dramatically shifted into the music box tinkling of "Extraordinary Machine." The adorable ballad -- covered in the fingerprints of former producer Jon Brion -- marked the dramatic contrariety between that former album (with all its cutesy charm), and this new one (with its blood and bones primacy), not to mention it all proved that Apple's pipes are still very much intact when she hit the nimble falsetto for the song's bridge.
Earlier in the night, half the audience was treated to an arresting solo performance by Blake Mills -- while the other half yakked loudly to each other during his pin-drop guitar instrumentals and Jeff Buckley-style serenades. Mills's work would not be done after his own performance, as he is performing double-duty on this tour as a member of Apple's backing band. But before leaving the stage, he treated the audience to a heartbreaking rendition of the tender surf-rock tune, "Sleepwalk."
The rest of our review, the set list and critic's notebook are on the next page.