I first saw Fiona Apple perform live when I was on location at the Trump Taj Mahal in 2006 working on the short-lived, live-to-tape, VH1 Classics concert series Decades Rock Live! She was a guest artist on the episode featuring Elvis Costello, and she she sang a cover of Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” that absolutely blew my mind and gave me shivers. That one performance was, bar none, my favorite performance from the 8 episodes we were able to tape.
It wasn’t until 6 year later in 2012 that I was able to see her perform again, this time at the Greek Theater supporting her album “The Idler Wheel […]”. I enjoyed the show, but truth be told, I could have done without the groups of drunk girls, sitting around me, chit-chatting throughout the entire show. Apparently, at that show, concert decorum left the building early. To have to tell people to shut up during the quiet, emotional songs is something that I don’t think any concert goer should have to deal with.
When I heard that Fiona Apple was performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, I knew that that was a ticket I needed to get. Not only is the Walt Disney Concert Hall a more intimate venue (it seats 2,265 as opposed to the Greek’s 5,870), but it also has superior acoustics and strict rules as to concert etiquette (i.e, strict food, beverage, noise and photography rules). I knew that this time around, I would be experiencing a difference type of Fiona Apple concert.
When I got to the venue, I made a b-line straight to the merchandise booth. For the concert at the Greek, I remember being literally one person late in getting an autographed lithographed poster for that show, taking a picture of the last poster that the woman right in front of me purchased, and I was trying to avoid the same thing from happening again. Nothing special was available, however, and I simply picked up the poster that you can see up at the top of the page.
The stage set up was sparse and simple. Instruments (drum-kit, upright bass, guitar rack, baby grand piano and a stand alone kick drum) were positioned on the stage with carpets under the center microphone and baby grand, and an empty blackboard at the rear of the stage. The players (Sebastian Steinberg on upright bass, Barbara Gruska barefoot on drums and Blake Mills on vocals and guitar(s)) took the stage, and before the music started Fiona announced, among other things, “I don’t do soundcheck,” and, “Now that we’re here, I’m taking the most risks.”
She walked to the chalkboard and began to write a series of words on the board (I wish I could have taken a picture of it, but per venue rules, no pics):
The music of the evening was pure perfection. Fiona and Blake complimented each other’s sound and personalities, and it was a joy to see each of the players be so in tune with each other. The musical brilliance aside, I was particularly excited to see Fiona so comfortable to be performing for us. She was chatty and enthusiastic throughout the entire set, something that wouldn’t have necessarily been expected based on all of the recent gossip.
During “The First Taste”, she sprawled herself on the floor playing percussion on some items she “borrowed” from the hotel she was staying at. After, “The First Taste” she noted her haircut and giggled while stating, “When I get excited, I cut my hair,” and added, “I just wanna feel everything.” During Blake’s first solo song, she draped herself of the stand alone kick-drum and pounded away at it throughout the tune. After “Anything We Want”, she emphasized that the name of tour was the same, and at that point it truly felt like she meant it.
Her emotions poured out on “Regret”. The dynamics on the Blake Mills duet of “Seven” were chilling, especially when Fiona sat on the floor while Blake gently, and at a super pianissamo level, gently plucked away at his guitar strings … all eyes in the room were fixated, and you could feel the tension in the room from everybody worrying about moving around making the slightest bit of noise. When an audience member yelled out “Paper Bag” as a request, Fiona admitted that she totally forgot about that song. Before “Left Alone” she called Rex Reed a cunt for giving her father a poor review, and stoically stated, “That was for you dad.”
After the show concluded, I made my way back out to the front of the theater to meet up with a couple friends when I noticed some concert goers walking around the foyer with a poster that looked different that the one I had purchased before show. I stopped one of the patrons with the different poster and she told me it was a limited lithograph of Fiona’s original artwork, signed by both Fiona and Blake. I went back to the merchandise table where the line was considerably longer than before. As fate would have it, this time I was the customer who purchased the LAST one that was available. I guess Karma found it’s way back to me.
I could totally care less about all of the tabloid fodder that’s out there about Fiona. Her music should speak for itself. And her music is simply, unequivocally, brilliant. In the intimate and acoustically superior Walt Disney Concert Hall, that musical brilliance was transcendent. I must have had the hair on my arms stand up at least 5 times throughout the concert, and I hardly have any hair on my arms.
Although I wish I could have taken some photographs, coming away with 1 of 50, signed lithographs for the show is definitely a worthy consolation prize.
- Tipple (new song co-written by Blake Mills)
- The First Taste
- Every Single Night
- Unworthy (Blake Mills)
- Anything We Want
- Curable Disease
- 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)
- Dull Tool
- Don’t Tell Out Friends About Us (Blake Mills)
- Left Alone
- I Know
- Waltz (Better Than Fine)
I recorded some audio clips from the show, but rather than edit them to post here, I simply found some video that another concert goer had put up. The video is terrible, but at least you can hear some of the amazing I got to experience at the Walt Disney Concert Hall that wonderful Monday evening. Cheers.