Fiona Apple at the Orpheum Theatre, 7/16/12

Fiona Apple at the Orpheum Theatre, 7/16/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

Fiona Apple
With Blake Mills
Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis

Monday, July 16, 2012

From the moment she stepped on stage at the Orpheum, Fiona Apple seemed to be in her own special room in her head. Every song was a trance, a frenzied art piece that required her absolute conentration, and in between those songs Apple was nervous and jittery. Over the course of her 90-minute set, Apple took the nearly sold-out crowd through a spiraling staircase of emotions with her accordion voice.

Over the years, Apple has garnered a reputation for being something of an eccentric -- a slightly reclusive, edgy slip of a thing, who might be spooked off stage by the wrong sort of eye contact from an audience member.

Fiona Apple at the Orpheum Theatre, 7/16/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

"Every single night's a fight with my brain," belted Apple during "Every Single Night." And it certainly seemed like Apple was fighting something throughout the show -- an internal struggle, a desire to run or scream or cry, maybe. But for an artist whose career has been made on her ultra-personal and borderline confessional music, the fact that she is this was is neither surprising nor discouraging -- and besides, despite appearances, she's not so fragile. Apple didn't even blink when some obnoxious heckler shouted something about her thick glasses -- right in the middle of the quiet and intense first verse of "Daredevil."

Fiona Apple at the Orpheum Theatre, 7/16/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

"I can't see shit without my glasses," said Apple as she removed them after the song, seemingly to appease the heckler. For those that might expect Apple to flutter away should her tenuous grasp on her emotions be challenged, this very simple move said something different: Apple, anxious and awkward though she may be, is not afraid to be wholly vulnerable to her audience, or to anyone. As if her music isn't enough evidence of that.

Apple's sprite-like self was further anchored down on stage by her incredible backing band, including bassist Sebastian Steinberg and the notable Blake Mills on guitar (who was also her opener). Mills' burning, blistering guitar solo on "Tymps" sent Apple's sinuous body twisting and turning around her microphone stand, like a snake being charmed out of its basket. Apple wants to feel everything, as she proclaims on "Every Single Night," and she certainly doesn't have a problem letting herself.

Fiona Apple at the Orpheum Theatre, 7/16/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

Of all the instruments on stage last night, there was none more extraordinary than Apple's voice. The artist's vocal chops were top form last night, her voice a quivering elastic force on "Anything We Want" and a howling, furious roar on "Criminal." As she sat in front of her piano for "On the Bound," she stroked the keys like she was petting a cat with feather-light touches and practically swallowed the microphone.


As the show was winding down, Apple seemed like she had finally wound herself down as well.

"I'm feeling a little nervous about the whole encore thing, because -- well," said Apple rapidly before launching into her encore song, a dynamic cover of Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe." "So I walked off stage, and now I'm back, and here it is."

Critic's bias: Fiona Apple is a girl's woman, and I've long been a believer.

The crowd: Demographically diverse, and so unbelievably obnoxious. Seriously, one of the worst crowds at a show in recent memory. Weird and rude -- and no one more so than the group sitting next to my companion and I, who were incredibly vocal about their dislike of opener Blake Mills during his performance -- and for what reason? Were they even listening to him? It was painful and embarrassing.

Overheard in the crowd: A lot of things I don't feel like remembering.

Random notebook dump: Blake Mills. Man. Deft guitar work. The kind of thing that makes your toes curl and your breath get shorter, and it's not until he's stopped playing that you realize he had that effect. He was a humble opener, and I would like to see him in an environment of his own, without the constant flux of people getting in and out of their seats and talking.

Fiona Apple at the Orpheum Theatre, 7/16/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

Setlist: Strangely, Apple only featured four new songs from The Idler Wheel..., starred below.

Fast As You Can
On the Bound
Paper Bag
Anything We Want*
Get Gone
Sleep to Dream
Extraordinary Machine
Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)
I Know
Every Single Night*
Not About Love
It's Only Make Believe (Conway Twitty cover)

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