Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fiona Apple concert at the Beacon Theatre in NYC

Last night I saw Fiona Apple in concert at the Beacon on New York's Upper West Side, which all-importantly (for one, not just of my age, but with my knee and back conditions in particular) has seats.  I'm pretty much done, except for an over-the-top special event, attending crowded concerts in open space rooms where people mill around for hours, then crowd in and subtly push past you.  But the Beacon is a nice midsized theater venue, although perhaps the sound could be better.  (From the front of the second level or loge - I couldn't get seats on the ground floor although willing to pay for them - it was hard to hear some of her stage patter, and also the sound balance seemed to be off - Blake Mills' electric guitar was too much louder than her piano when she played it.)

She is really my favorite rock / pop artist who is still arguably mid-career and active.  (The likes of McCartney, Bob Dylan, and Ray Davies don't count, even if I may occasionally buy and moderately enjoy their new albums.)  So I was definitely primed to go, and regret that I didn't also get tickets for the concert the Beacon had added for the previous day in response to high ticket demand.

One of the things you wonder about when you attend a Fiona Apple concert is whether she'll make it through.  There was the famous meltdown some years back, when I gather she felt the sound was bad and stormed off the stage.  There was also a corporate event that she played (in Japan?) a few months back, where she understandably got angry that people weren't listening.  And recently she lost it when a fan urged her to take care of herself so she'd be around for years (I presume, implicitly calling her bulimic).  But this time she made it through, apparently in good spirits.

Someone I know who is less completely pro-Fiona than I am came up with a good phrase to describe her vibe on stage - "jittery bag of bones."  And added the comment that she evidently has "issues," which would not come as a surprise to anyone who listens to her music.  She's not exactly trying to avoid that impression.  I noted in a blog entry here some months back that John Lennon's 1970 primal scream album is about as good a comp for her as anything else that comes for mind, only her work is generally better than that at-times-plodding classic.

The concert had some great high points, but they were a bit interspersed.  She is touring with LA country-folk-rock-popster Blake Mills, and while his guitar playing for her was good (apart from being mixed too high), the concert was close to a 50-50 split between their material.  With all due respect, and though he'd certainly be fun in a small venue, I found her material considerably more gripping.  But good for her, I suppose, after "Left Alone" or "Not About Love," which don't hold back either vocally or emotionally, to be able to take a back seat for a few minutes.

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