Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012
Better than: Feeling less than everything.
Fiona Apple is a blazing singer. She's a bold composer and performer, a fist-fighter on piano and percussion. In the right light last night, she looked like a Gashlycrumb Tiny. In the wrong, bruises seemed to mark her high cheek bones. Then there was the war paint of a woman never at rest. She crawled into herself, gnawed away flesh and blood until there were only bones, something to hang her whipping cords on.
Is it cruel and unusual punishment that she gets up on stage and embodies the anguish of her songs for our pleasure? She moaned in pitch-perfect tones: "Hunger hurts but starving works." Her arms were rail-thin. She sang: "It costs too much to love." We know she's racked from the inside out. Girl can't help it. She's Kafka's Hunger Artist. We're her rapt public, longing to be closer to her always. We pushed toward the front of the stage, gazed through the bars of her self-incarceration as she scratched at open wounds.
Seeing Fiona Apple live is complicated. We feel for her. We want to feed her, yet we watch her waste away. We want to wash her feet and hair. She wore a ponytail last night. Why clean up before the show when it's so dirty under the spotlights? Maybe she didn't want to be there. Maybe she had no choice. Maybe her performance was an act of defiance, a middle finger to dying without a last loud gasp. In this way, she projected an immense life force. She showered us with the power of her public grieving and seemed grateful to do so. We sopped up her everything. I guess that's true love, or symbiosis, something.
We don't want her to suffer, yet we packed into the concert hall to feel her hurt. People sang along: "That's where the pain comes in / like a second skeleton." Someone shouted out: "Love you!" Someone seconded: "Love you, too!" The final word: "Love you more!"
We each love her more than she appears to love herself. Yet she assured us: "Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key." Fiona Apple gave heart to us, then she begged: "Never let it starve." We howled and called for more.
The band: Apple's new group is a fine-tuned machine that dropped powerful, rolling-and-tumbling grooves.
Country: There was a strange country vibe on a number of songs, including Apple's cowgirl hollers on the final tune, the guitarist's woesome bottleneck guitar, and a synth that sounded like a singing saw.