Reviews > Shows
Fiona Apple in Chicago
In three months, Fiona Apple transformed from a skulking, fragile imp unraveling at the seams to a zealous woman completely in control of her emotions and art. Apple left the growling, fidgeting hot mess that spent 40 uncomfortable minutes onstage at an intimate venue on Chicago’s North Side over St. Paddy’s Day weekend at home (or on her psychiatrist’s couch) and brought a defiant survivor to a sold-out redo at the vast Chicago Theatre.
Sure, she still screamed bloody murder on a ragged “On the Bound” and barely said more than a bashful “thank you” the entire night, but she sneered out the definitive version of “Sleep to Dream.” Every thunderclap of the guitar sent Apple into a jittering wave. Yet, instead of coming undone, she oozed steely resolve as if the object of her wrath stood in her sightline and she wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of seeing her dejected.
That ghost watched Apple swat her paws at the piano like a cat during the tirade of “Shadowboxer,” modestly straddle the bench (leaving the spread eagle stance for Tori Amos) on a chirping “Get Gone” and contort her body into right angles like a Russian dancer from “Fiddler on the Roof” for a choking “Daredevil.” One of the highlights from Apple’s latest release “The Idler Wheel…,” the song’s brushed drum beat mimicked what a person must hear in the vortex of a panic attack.
Those drums also added a kitchen sink clank to “Anything We Want,” while Apple swiveled her hips to keep an invisible hula-hoop afloat with both the childlike wonder and carnal pleasure inherent in the lyrics. “Extraordinary Machine” took a cue from the Beatles’ Transcendental Meditation playbook before Apple cut through the cloud of Ravi Shankar-isms with a voice sweet enough to steal that bluebird right off of Snow White’s finger.
A Disney fairytale ending continues to elude Apple either by fate or self-sabotage. A guttural tribal call on “Every Single Night” seemed to summon a sacrifice even as she warned the recipient of her ardor to plan his escape. “Brother, get back, cause my breast’s gonna bust open. The rib is the shell and the heart is the yolk yoke and I just made a meal for both of us to choke on,” she bleated, flagellating her instrument to the point of disrepair. Things simmered down to the austerity of a church for “I Know,” which stealthily cast away any doubts about Apple’s stamina and status as a legend. The sublime resignation came to a head during a griping cover of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.” The 34-year-old went all slinky torch singer on the crowd as a weeping guitar conjured up images of tumbleweeds and ten-gallon hats. The juxtaposition of styles made remembering to breathe an afterthought.
And with that, Apple’s diminutive, yet sinewy frame slipped behind a curtain leaving an uproarious audience on their feet taking bets on how many years will lapse before returns.
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