Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fiona Apple - WCSU Ives Concert Park - 6/29/12

For a very particular slice of the public consciousness lexicon, the name Fiona Apple is one filled with reverence and mystique. However Fiona Apple's also a name which fell from public consciousness as mysteriously as she appeared.
If you're a young person today who divides your time evenly among names like Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, you probably have never heard of Fiona Apple before.
At the same time if you're too old to appreciate the names who headline the Lilith Fair embargo (Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco) and instead fall back on old standards like Heart, Pat Benatar, and Annie Lennox then the name Fiona Apple probably means as little to you as anything.
However if you do fall in that tender slice of years (say high school graduating class 1994-1999) then you may know who Fiona Apple is. You may have known her firsthand or maybe you had an older sister or cousin who turned you on to songs like "Criminal" and "Shadowboxer." Maybe this relative turned you on to her inverted and tortured music and filled your head with some of the wilder stories about Apple like that she allegedly had an eating disorder. Or perhaps you were drawn in by the very true story of how she was raped when she was very young. Whatever the bait was time turned you around and her impression was indelibly made and you were hooked.
So when Fiona Apple was reported to be coming through the Western Connecticut State UniversityWestside campuses Ives Concert Park I was delighted to find myself present for that show. I saw on Pitchfork earlier in June a new song from Apple, "Werewolf," from her new record "The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Ever Do." This song is incredible and so I looked forward to this concert with great anticipation. 
Much to this reporters delight the Fiona Apple of today looks much the same as she did in the mid-90's. Her arms are a little stronger looking but she's still very gaunt and this fact tells me that this is just who Fiona Apple is; she's just a thin woman. 
The concert took its time to get going; the opening band came out a little after 8pm and strummed along for almost an hour. Then just after 9, Apple took the stage to thunderous applause.
She was in pretty strong form which was also pleasantly surprising; still with a defiant attitude throughout. She stood with an almost stoic indignation as she sang the lyric to "Sleep to Dream," and I thought that maybe she was a little resentful of that simple song's powerful commercial success. "Is she just going through the motions," I wondered. But then, as though reading my mind, as the band riffed off on an extended solo the singer totally lost it and began thrashing in a manic dance all over the stage. The cheers came and she cavorted herself further still before curling into a fetal position and squeezing her knees tight to her breast sitting on the stage floor for the songs conclusion. 
She was a very energetic performer but Apple never lost her groove though. There were other moments, later on in the show, where she stood with her arms akimbo, sighed and let her exhausted and frazzled looking head fall backwards even as her sultry hips kept moving with the underscored beat. Just when you thought she might collapse from exhaustion or fall into a heap she then would thrash her body about some more. She ended one song retreated to a full surrender of her upper torso even as her legs stood taught like toothpicks. 
Of course Fiona Apple had soulful moments as well. One such occasion was her stirring rendition of "I Know." Apple commanded the microphone and laid down her longing vocal line around the warm encapsulating synth, simple drum brushes, tiny plucks of the bass and the single note twang of the guitar. 
Her voice was certainly edgier than I remember from FM radio. A new song like "Daredevil" was filled with a guttural rawness which was at once refreshing and unnerving. 
I can't wait to hear what's next from Fiona Apple. I also apparently need to be a better fan and pick up her intermittent recordings as well. If this show is coming to an off-the-beaten-path venue near you, I would get my tickets right away! 

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