She really is an extraordinary machine ...
The Chicago Theater is such a great venue, and it was perfect for my first ever Fiona Apple concert.
Disclaimer: I'm not a Fiona Apple expert, but I have followed her catalog from a distance and have always been a fan ever since she broke on the scene with Criminal. So when my girlfriend asked me to go with her to a concert, how could I turn her down?
We arrived at the theater just in time for the opening act. We weren't sure who it was, but it turned out that the openers were Fiona's backing band with an amazingly great and versatile guitarist.
They brought out other members of the band with each song--adding the bass, drums and extra keys. The guitarist said that if the crowd was good then Fiona would be out in about 35 minutes.
As the band warmed the crowd up, you could hear the audience chattering. That gives you an idea of how intimate the band is with their instruments. They really were subtle, technical and were able to express the proper mood for a Fiona show. They closed with the ending song from the movie La Bamba titled "Sleep walk" to perfection. My girlfriend and I reminisced the song was also featured in 12 Monkeys.
After the opening act wrapped up, there was a fifteen minute delay. This was a nice change from other shows I usually attend where stage hands have to move the opener off the stage and get the backstage up and running. Also, I'm used to going to shows where it's general admission which leaves you standing there waiting in a sea of people.
We just so happened to have balcony seats with a perfect view of the entire station.
|Photos by Meghan Harmon|
The house lights dimmed and the stage took to life. Fiona came out with "Fast As You Can" to a vociferous crowd. It was a very strong yet chaotic song to open with.
Fiona had a drum stick she used to keep time on her hip as she sang--almost as a punishment of sorts. It reminded me of priest flagellation from the middle ages. She then quickly ran to the grand piano stage right.
"On The Bound" was next. The lights were minimal, but precise and effective, with the spots hitting their mark as if being played by the band.
Fiona marches when she plays piano. I was surprised at how little she did play the piano. I figured, from listening to her music, that she was an artist who stayed behind the piano. That wasn't the case. It was about 50/50. But when she was behind the piano, you could tell by looking at her ballerina shoe wrapped feet that she feels the music through here whole body.
When she isn't behind the piano stroking it like it was a kitty, she it's center stage with a posture that is as fragile as her compositions. Her body trembles with her voice.
"Because the price is paid, there's nothing left to grieve"
As the set progressed, Fiona was dancing in a very strange marionette-type dance. It was erratic, yet mellow and liquid. This was during a jam of "Sleep To Dream" that ended with her on her knees. Well played, Fiona. Well played!
"Extraordinary Machine" was a pleasant treat and a crowd favorite.
Someone eventually threw a necklace on stage and Fiona then worked it into her wardrobe by wrapping it in her belt.
Fiona has little tantrums on stage, reminiscent of four-year-olds that don't get their way. That's when she's letting the music take over.
But then every ounce of herself is put into her voice--with raw emotions escaping through her lips and into the microphone.
She eventually did play her first breakthrough hit, "Criminal," as the second to last song. Honestly, I don't think she was fully into it. She seemed to fade out of the ether of the moment and at the end of the song just simply walked off stage as if she forgot her drumstick. She then came back and play a very powerful closing song to a standing fan ovation. Not sure if that constitutes an encore, because she was literally off the stage for two seconds. After the final song, she said something to the audience through that was inaudible and then belted out as if a bed bug had bitten her "Good night!"
When she is quite, the hurt and sorrow--it's conveyed as she sits slouched in the middle of the stage as if in a stupor.
When she is not singing there seems to be a certain bipolar struggle of a manic child fighting for attention with a timid victim.
The second her voice takes over, you can hear Fiona the woman.
Fiona's latest album The Idler Wheel is riding high on the charts and her tour is selling gangbusters. After seeing her perform in the raw, so to speak, I can understand why.