Fiona Apple Returns and Gives All

March 26th, 2012

Fiona Apple – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 23, 2012

To say that the sold-out crowd on Friday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg was excited for Fiona Apple’s performance is an understatement. As the venue filled, fans were on a bit of an emotional roller coaster—frantic, eager, flabbergasted, ravenous—awaiting her first New York City performance in years. When the singer and her band appeared onstage, perhaps Apple sensed this loaded energy, negotiating with the crowd that if we refrained from chattering during the show (so as not to piss off fellow fans), she promised: “I will give you everything that I can possibly give you.”

Apple immediately made good on her end of the bargain, as a skittering drumbeat began the opening bars of “Fast as You Can” from 1999’s When the Pawn…, she attacked the vocals with intensity, danced frenetically over the urgent guitar line and then ran over to her piano to pound out the slow verses. Apple followed with a string of songs from the same album, performing powerful renderings of “On the Bound,” “Paper Bag” and “A Mistake.” In addition to these beloved older numbers, she performed several new songs from her forthcoming album (get ready), The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, including the slow-burning “Anything We Want” and the dramatic, cabaret-esque “Valentine.”

The vulnerability and personal insecurities Apple often explores in her music (coupled with some well documented public outbursts) often find the singer cast by the media as frail, fragile or volatile. However these simplistic renderings don’t give the singer enough credit for her own power and her authentic ability to express herself. To this end, Apple sang on Friday night with conviction, at times getting her point across with a clenched jaw, with her hands over her face, clutching her chest, wrapping her arms protectively around herself, looking at the crowd through wide, anxious eyes and, yes, occasionally smiling too—in command at all times, and decidedly not fragile. Following a satisfyingly intense performance of the crowd-pleasing “Criminal” and a lovely cover of country standard “It’s Only Make Believe,” we waited in vain for an encore, but it soon became clear. Apple’s performance was complete. She had rightfully given us her all. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Hilary J. Corts |