An Alluring AppleOctober 18th, 2012
Fiona Apple – Terminal 5 – October 17, 2012
I can remember as a kid, waiting to record Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” off a radio broadcast. As much as it was already being played on the radio, MTV and everywhere else back in 1997, the strange allure of that song demanded that I have a copy of it for myself to play over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it. Turns out, it wasn’t just this one song that had this strange allure—it was everything Fiona Apple did. And I wasn’t the only one that felt this way either. Fast forward a few albums and several years later, and Fiona Apple is no longer just a radio hitmaker but a full-on Artist with a capital A, selling out two nights at Terminal 5, mesmerizing fans of all ages that she’s hooked over the years.
Apple is a vocal contortionist of sorts, bending and twisting her vocal chords to get whatever sound she needs to back her beautiful songwriting with some emotional heft. On “Shadowboxer” her voice broke at the perfect moments, like the meanings behind her lyrics were doing their best to hold her back from singing them out. “Anything We Want” was sung with a voice so heavy in vibrato that it was like the butterflies-in-stomach feeling had gotten hold of her vocal chords. “Extraordinary Machine” came out in such a raspy Janis Joplin-esque low voice that when Apple sang, “I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine,” it sounded incredibly human, but then a verse later she lifted off into an insanely high pitch that sounded practically impossible for a human to create.
And while Apple was performing all these vocal gymnastics, she squirmed around the stage in a wonderfully spastic way. Sometimes she was in front of a microphone stand, leaning on it like she needed its support, and at others she just pounded away at her piano. Of course, some credit is also due to her backing band, which did a perfect job following her every step. Drummer Amy Wood led the way, playing through the songs’ rhythmic twists and turns, and guitarist Blake Mills, who opened the show, added a huge array of sounds that a couple of times became a song’s main event. But the night as a whole belonged to Apple. And all anyone else in Terminal 5 could do was sing along to her every word, hoping to capture for themselves just a fleeting second of that strange allure that is Fiona Apple. —Dan Rickershauser