Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: Fiona Apple at House of Blues

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 10:19 AM

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  • Rachel Puckett (@rachelpuckett / instagigs.co)
Just hours before Fiona Apple took the stage at the New Orleans House of Blues, the fallout from her recent drug possession arrest, and then her subsequent public comments about that arrest, played out on Internet gossip sites that had suddenly taken interest in the reclusive artist. After Apple alluded to some "inappropriate and probably illegal" behavior by four unnamed people in the Sierre Blanca, Texas prison where she was held, the public information officer of Texas’ Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office, Rusty Fleming, fired back in a statement, basically saying Apple is not famous and that she should just “shut up and sing.”

Last night in New Orleans, she addressed that right when she walked onstage: “I just wanna say to (musician) Charlie Dayton who made this record with me, I'm sorry all our hard work is being overshadowed by this bullshit." Then she continued with “And there’s no fucking lock box,” referencing the metaphor she employed to describe how those “inappropriate” activities are stored in her head. “I’m not that fucked up.” Immediately after she launched into “Fast As You Can” — in which she snarls “you think you know how crazy, how crazy I am” — beginning a captivating set spanning her discography.

The way I would describe many fans’, including myself, devotion to Apple is religious. She isn’t very prolific, and there are pretty big chunks of time between her records (the seven years between 2005’s Extraordinary Machine and her latest release being the longest). Consequently, the release of those records corresponds with big milestones in people’s lives: for me, 1996’s Tidal was when I was starting to discover pop radio/watch MTV behind my parents’ backs, 1999’s When the Pawn … was right before high school, Extraordinary Machine came out during my freshmen year of college (and right after Hurricane Katrina), and this year’s The Idler Wheel ... times perfectly with the weirdness associated with mid-twenties. And as inaccessible she can be as a person, her lyrics communicate heartbreak, pain and desire in such a universal way. Because of these things, it seems fans feel a strong attachment to Apple; at last night’s sold-out show they were singing every word, waiting after the show to grab a set list and queuing outside the venue to get a glimpse of her getting on her tour bus.

The set list was an eclectic mix of songs from her records, with tracks from The Idler Wheel … getting a lot of play, but she visited older songs, singing many of them in the raw, clenched-teeth-and-shoulders manner associated with that new record. She really went somewhere for each song — she would thrash around and stomp like a child having a fit, shake and scream, do some strange dance while kneeling on the stage, but just as easily she could transform into someone sweet and amorous (like in "Anything We Want" when she sings "and I kept touching my neck / to guide your eye to where I wanted you to kiss me when we find some time alone").

After playing Extraordinary Machine cut “Not About Love” that ended with her screaming the chorus while furiously banging piano keys (songs from that album, which was characterized by orchestral flourishes, had louder rock arrangements live), she closed with a cover of Conway Twitty’s country torch song “It’s Only Make Believe.” One would think she had destroyed her voice while roaring the song before, but she delivered a tremulous, haunting vibrato for the cover.

She and the band left the stage and it was clear there’d be no encore (the audience seemed more than satisfied with the show, anyway). Perhaps because of recent events, she did not play her breakout hit “Criminal.’

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