Fiona Apple, Royale, Boston, MA – 3/27
The last time I saw Fiona Apple it was 2006 and she spent the entire performance “kicking and screaming.” I walked away from the experience with a better appreciation for her as an artist and took the show for what it was worth. It didn’t dawn on me that that evening would be the last I’d really see or hear from her for the next six years. While she made appearances and rumors of a new album were leaked, never did I think that she would return. Not because I didn’t think she could, but because I thought she had just had it. I was content in knowing that I had seen her perform at least once in my lifetime. When I caught wind of her short tour and the new album was confirmed, to say that I was elated would be an understatement.
I had happily taken a break from my usual rock scene to catch a moment of clarity with my girl, Fiona, on this otherwise ordinary Tuesday. Within Boston’s Royale Theater, there was an odd mix of melancholy and excitement in the air. The theater was fitting; vintage and unique. Members of her band, Blake Mills and Sebastian Steinberg, took stage with a guitar and an upright bass, respectively, and wooed the crowd with a couple of slow, bluesy tunes. They closed out their short set with a cover of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleep Walk”: be still my heart.
Fiona took stage with huge smile on her face though a bit of apprehension in her stance. She opened with “Fast As You Can” where she moved about stage, arms flailing and happy. Her band, consisting of four, backed her and didn’t skip a beat. Rifling through familiar songs, she went back and forth between her baby grand piano and her mic. Her voice still contained the power and soul she introduced in the early 90’s and was reminiscent of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane.
“On the Bound,” “Paper Bag” and “A Mistake” led her into a new song, “Anything We Want” where she tapped on a triangle-like instrument. People on the balcony were leaning quietly on the railing just watching her in awe as she performed. You could hear the clanking of bottles at the bar as the crowd whispered “shhh” while she sat at her keys and played another new one, “Valentine.” Following that, she indulged us with her classics, “Sleep to Dream” and “Extraordinary Machine.”
With her hands clenched to her skirt at the hips, her tiny self, loving and soulful, sang her heart out to Boston. “Every Single Night” (another new one), “Carrion” and “Criminal” brought the show closer to the end. A few words to the crowd and she went on to sing a Conway Twitty cover, “It’s Only Make Believe.”
She waved and walked off-stage and the crowd stood cheering screaming for “one more song!” As more and more lights popped on, it became clear that it was over. Then Louis Armstrong came over the house sound and sang, “and I think to myself….what a wonderful world.” Indeed!