An eager crowd emerges from the Verdi Square station on 72nd & Broadway and makes its way down a couple blocks. Yellow taxicabs line 74th street and a stream of people pour through the entrance doors of the Beacon. Couples walk two by two, men loosening their ties and women touching up their lipsticks as they enter. It is, after all, a Monday night, so what better way to unwind from a hard day than to sip Pinot Noir in the orchestral seats, waiting for Fiona Apple to take you and your date completely by surprise with her antics?
People begin to fidget in their seats as Apple is running thirty minutes behind schedule. Soft whispers begin to surface the air: “Do you think she left the venue?” It was only a week ago that Fiona Apple had a fan escorted out for calling her too skinny and unhealthy, so who knows what the singer is capable of doing next? But as the lights dim, so do the complaints and before you know it, a frail figure in a little black dress leans in against what seems like a blackboard. A sharp screech comes screaming in the concert hall, making its way row by row as the singer-songwriter scribbles “Teach me how to be free” in chalk.
California based singer-songwriter and producer, Blake Mills, soon joins her on stage with his guitar, taking a seat right in front of the percussion set, and they start the show with their new song, “Tipple”. Apple amuses the audience as she playfully picks up a selection of handpicked percussive instruments in the chorus. Though the rattle struggles more than it shakes, she stirs a majority of her audience with childlike enthusiasm alone. It soon makes no difference that the rattle is inaudible. Before performing the Tidal track “The First Taste”, she attempts several times in engaging the audience with witty banter but misplaces the punch line each time. The audience laughs forgivingly and she continues to play her first single off of The Idler Wheel, “Every Single Night”. Apple, immersed into the music, strikes herself with the artisan percussion that she has in her hands. In “Regret”, her animal gestures are akin to watching Mowgli hunt with his brother wolves, only instead of removing thorns from the palms of her brothers, Apple is planting them on herself. She proceeds to tread down this intense path performing songs like “Not About Love” and “Dull Tool”, but it is not until the last couple of songs in her set when she truly sucks the air out of the room. Her performance of “Left Alone” is as eerie and angry as it sounds on record, and during her live rendition, it almost makes Apple look and sound frailer than before. It is almost like she appears noticeably smaller on stage. She ends the night with “Waltz (Better than Fine)”, which proves to be the crowd-pleaser of the night. She cheerfully preaches, “If you don’t have a date, celebrate”, winning the heart of those few people who showed up to the stage solo.
Though Apple ends the show in a rather abrupt manner, in a way no one can tell whether it is actually over or if she is in between songs, most people walk out content, holding some form of merchandise or another, with the belief that they can be Anything They Want.