As I sat waiting for my train home after Fiona Apple and Blake Mills’ show Tuesday night at the Bank of America Theatre, I listened to a woman bitching to her friend about the evening.
“I mean, an hour is too long to ask your fans to wait. I can understand 15 minutes, you’re getting some drinks, going to the bathroom, but ...”
“I thought she was great, but I’d be amazed if she’s never taken an acting class in her life.”
Listen, lady: Fiona Apple is a living legend, one of very few true geniuses we’ll see perform in our lifetimes. You will sit there and wait until your butt is numb. That is why your phone has games. And if you think her tics, like the weird way that she pretty much has to be smacking herself with something while she sings, are an act, clearly you don’t know a whole lot about her.
This was my first time seeing both Fiona, whose work I’ve cherished for years, and Blake, who I’m just getting to know. The combination seemed really odd at first—she’s the queen of emotions that make you curl into a ball; he rolls with a bluesy, softer sound. But adding a searing rock-guitar line behind her “Left Alone” and a female duet component to his “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me” turned out wildly successful.
On Fiona: Watching her perform is almost like seeing a feral animal try to free itself from a cage. Her icy eyes bug out, she grips and bends the mic stand for dear life, her emotions stutter-step their way out through her enormous-boot-clad feet. It’s raw, visceral and completely captivating. Remind yourself: She chose to be on this stage. On some level, she wants to be here. You’ll feel like less of an intruder.
Blake and Fiona titled this collaborative tour “Anything We Want,” which definitely didn’t mean everything the audience wanted. Blake apologized after several women in the crowd shrieked out song requests—the fate of the evening was already tied to his set list. This wasn’t a show for those looking to hear a catalog of Fiona’s greatest hits; she played just one song each from “When The Pawn...” and “Extraordinary Machine,” and “Tidal.” (Although how could she perform more from "Tidal"? She wrote the damn thing when she was in high school.)
Instead, the night was more about stage setting and theatrics. Drummer Barbara Gruska and bassist Sebastian Steinberg slammed their way through tracks we knew—“Every Single Night,” “Dull Tool”—and other brand-new Blake/Fiona productions like “Tipple” and “I Want You To Love Me.” At some points, as Fiona spoke between songs, you could feel the audience holding its collective breath, hoping to sidestep the kind of freakout that’s happened in other stops on this tour. No matter—Fiona said she loved Chicago, and hoped no “[bleep]holes” had shown up that night.
“How am I supposed to have my meltdown? I don’t do Twitter,” she joked.
Please. Like she needs Twitter.
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