Fiona Apple / Damian Rice, Central Park SummerStage- 7/26
Living in New York City can be like living in a movie. Passing Naumberg Bandshell, the old, stone stage, the original home of Central Park’s summer stage (established in 1986) was now overflowing with skateboarders. Moving through rows of shade trees, reminiscent of English gardens as seen in As You Like It or Emma and the nearby field used in the film version of Hair on the way to Central Park’s current stage location, Rumsey Field, the crowd flocking to see Damian Rice and Fiona Apple could have come straight from Central casting. The young, the hip, the beautiful.
Entering the gates of the small open-air venue was an immediate immersion into humanity. The crowd pressed close to the stage as Damian Rice’s plaintive, heart wrenching voice soothed the afternoon heat. Rice’s music is a mix of intensely moving lyrics and a new weird rock. His songs flipped between breaking into the soul’s emotional core, to dancing along the edge of the ears consciousness.
Fiona Apple took the stage as darkness started to fall. Her slight body was garbed in black. She hid behind her keyboard, surrounded by her protective band. The first song, “Get him Back” took a moment to coalesce, as the sound gear was adjusted but part way through her signature sound kicked in. The second song, “To Your Love” sounded like it came straight from the album, inflections and notes hit in exactly the same way. As the opening of “Once my Lover” floated out over the crowd a sigh of enjoyment followed it like a summer breeze.
Her songs, old as they are, still sounded fresh, poignant and catchy. She began to speak, “Everyone has someone who is the nicest person in the world in public, then when they get you alone they whisper something cruel.” Apple continued, explaining that this was her song about getting out of a destructive relationship. There were nods and murmurs of support and recognition from all sides. Blasting into “Better by Far” she stood singing. A terrible speaker, her lyrics and vocals tease the beauty of pain to the surface. Her voice went throaty and primal as she thrashed then danced, the audience privy to an entire soul baring experience. Red and yellow lights flashed behind her. As Fiona finished, she said matter of factly, “Still makes me angry.”
A purple forestry effect appeared from the lights as Apple curled into her self, Bowed, like a crone in the woods, she avoided the light. The roughness of her voice was highlighted by the soft lullaby of the melody of “I Know.” “Baby I can’t help you out” she sang, maybe to her dream man. “If you find it’s too hard to love me please tell me so.” Her band just silhouettes against the scrim.“I’d like to thank the sun for going down.” She said, followed by “I’ve got my feet on the ground and I don’t go to sleep to dream.” There was a nod to Ani Difranco in the cadence of her voice. Apple sang the chorus but the other lyrics were spoken on top of rhythm and melody accompanied by spastic upper arm dancing during the instrumental break. She wandered off the stage leaving behind repetitive broken melodies and a slight disappointment. There are certain people who no matter how good it might be, you do not come to hear their band. Tori Amos, Paul Simon, Fiona Apple. She is rich in love songs, woven with hate. An accurate historian of the modern human romantic condition.
As with most hometown shows there was some extra emotion. Towards the end of the evening Apple spoke across the crowd to her mother seated in the bleachers in the back. “Mama, you’re not going to remember this but I remember asking you, Does every good day need a bad day?’ Mom put her hand over her mouth, fighting back tears, “You said no, but I still don’t believe you.”.“I was at my mom’s yesterday, she didn’t want to talk about anything, but I thought wouldn’t she be so happy to know the people around me are awesome. Yes mama I’m using it right, they are awe inspiring. I really genuinely love these people. I’m happy to see them every day.” She sounded surprised. “I should shut up” ok, here we go.”
Breaking into “Fast as you Can” from when the pawn hits she belted it out. Leaving the stage for a moment, building to the encore of “Extraordinary Machine,” followed by “Criminal”
The audience left rapidly pushing into the dark, cooling evening. Spreading out through the park into the pulsing city. Exhausted by the raw emotional examination that we had all voluntarily, even happily entered into. Cleaned, refreshed, strongly alive and savoring the slightly bitter sweetness of lost love and broken dreams, we moved off into the night.