Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Fiona Apple in Red Bank

As always with FTT O-T, this won't be about sports and you can move along to some other Web site if such things offend.

Tonight in Red Bank, NJ, I took the Shooter Eldest, now 12, to her first concert. It was the aforementioned Ms. Apple, who has been worming her way into every inch of consciousness for much of the last year. Here's how she opens her set...

And here's my best guess on the set list, with occasional clips from the Internet.

Fast As You Can
On the Bound
Paper Bag

Anything We Want
Get Gone
Sleep to Dream
Extraordinary Machine

Left Alone
I Know
Tymps (The Sick In The Head Song)
Every Single Night

Not About Love
It's Only Make Believe

So, five things from one of the five best shows I've ever seen...

1) The leg thing she does, where she spends a third of her time while singing approximating a crane? I can tell you from hundreds of gigs and lots of training that this does nothing good for you as a vocalist, and would be removed with haste by any instructor. Apple, of course, does enough of it to qualify as some sort of Tourette's twitch, with seemingly no effect whatsoever on her vocal. I have no idea how she does this, or many other things, really.

2) This is going to sound absolutely ludicrous on every level, and it is, but... watching this woman reminded me of my own stunted and sorry rock and roll frontman career, in that whatever success I had came from the same sellout for every moment intensity that she brings, and her seeming inability to perform the material without channeling all kinds of demons. So watching her is like some kind of ultimate fun house mirror, assuming that there's a mirror that could have given me 1000X more talent and female. This all adds to the incredibly odd feelings you get from watching her, which also includes...

3) A not inconsiderable feeling of parental concern. No, seriously. There's something clearly wrong with Apple, something broken and open and vulnerable and tiny and off, to the point that when I watch her, I honestly *worry* about her. She's way too good at what she does to self-destruct and not make (many) more albums, and when you see her, you don't feel great about her chances for long-term productivity. No one's going to an Apple show thinking that they can will be able to just go see her all the time.

4) Similarly, there's true rock and roll unpredictability, too, mostly because Apple's skill level is off the charts, along with the sensitivities. At any moment, she can jump octaves in ways that make you wonder if she shouldn't be doing Sondheim pyrtotechnics, command the crowd and excellent backing band with random controlled pauses, improv to lyric repeats and scattered phrasing... and it all, somehow, works. To call her a lyrical tightrope walker doesn't do justice to the feat; it's more like that, but with juggling, a stiff wind and artillery involved.

5) It's been years since I've been to a live show, and the years have not been kind to performers. Apple was spectacular tonight, but you'd never know from the more than occasional idiots with cell phones, verbal diarrheists and drunken scenesters that were up in the cheap seats with me and the eldest tonight. Apple didn't perform an encore tonight -- it seems to be something she doesn't generally do, which somehow makes sense for her -- and on some level, I'm glad about that, because the crowd didn't deserve more. And it's just a rainy Monday night in a small town on the outskirts of New York, so go, by all means, and let me get my dazzled kid back home early enough where she can get to school in the morning. (Wearing a tour T-shirt, of course.)

And most importantly... my daughter loved it, and I was able to give her a first concert experience that she won't be embarrassed by later. Which, in and of itself, makes this one of the best shows I've ever gone to...

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