red lights


Pushing the edge

Fiona Apple
Riviera Theatre
Chicago, IL
Dec. 4, 2005
Fiona Apple Fiona Apple

Story and photos by Matt Schwenke

Basically disappearing for a few years, Fiona Apple is touring once again following the recent release of her third album Extraordinary Machine. In the title track, Fiona sings, "I certainly haven't been shopping for any new shoes," (indeed, the shoes she wore at the Riviera were taped-up to keep from falling apart), but the fine, new pair of jazz shoes Apple slips into on the new album are a perfect fit to keep her sound moving forward.
While opening with two of the songs from her new album that are most akin to her previous work, "Get Him Back" and "Better Version of Me," Apple's biggest steps came later in the set with "Tymps (The Sick In The Head Song)." Highlighting her new direction in songwriting, Apple sang with a subtle fervor and unique phrasing atop the classic piano sway of an Apple tune, the cantankerous, clock-work rhythms of a Tom Waits, and hints of Stevie Wonder's funk synths. Following-up with another new song, Apple's songwriting steps bordered a folk path with the airy and story-like "Red Red Red." Matching well with the new material, Apple's performance of songs from When The Pawn..., such as the pounding in "To Your Love" and the hair-tugging, shaking-in-fits ending of "Paper Bag," received a raucous approval from the crowd.
As she moved from sitting at the piano to standing at a mic, her voice being her only instrument, Apple's band helped fuel her lyrical fire. While some of the arrangments lacked all the instruments found in the studio version, in "I Know," the band walked step-for-step with Apple as her voice shifted from fragile and angelic to bold and aggressive. The only thing equaling the range of emotions Apple displayed that night, however, was that of her own voice. Apple pushed her voice to the edge of its vast limits throughout the show- even pulling back and wincing briefly in "On The Bound" before returning in even stronger.
Quiet between songs at first, Apple proved to be quite personable during her performance. Admitting she had been having a stretch of days on the road where she "overall hated people," Apple slowly warmed up to the crowd and later thanked them for "curing" her of that. In a storyteller moment, Apple introed "Get Gone" as a song "I wrote when I was really sure I had to leave someone. Then, I left maybe three years later or something. So,... basically it's bullshit." What wasn't - was the energy pumped into the performance of that song along with "Fast As You Can" to finish the set.
Returning for an encore with opener David Garza on guitar, Apple was especially entertaining with her almost cynical, jazz glitz delivery in "Extraordinary Machine." A full band returned for "Criminal" off of Apple's first release Tidal, only to leave again with Apple alone on stage behind her piano. With a gentle croon that exploded with the turbulent changes of the song, the night-ending "Parting Gift" was exactly that.

Fiona Apple Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple Fiona Apple

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