I’m not one for clichés, but Fiona Apple is proof that some people really never change.
The eccentric ‘90s singer-songwriter took the stage to a nostalgic crowd Sept. 12 at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Though gaunt and sickly-looking, Queen FiFi gave nothing short of an extraordinary performance.
Apple jumped right into the set with “Fast As You Can” and “On the Bound” from her 1999 critically-acclaimed album When The Pawn… (which, until 2007, held the world record for the longest album title).
Sitting in the first few rows, I was completely surrounded by ‘90s Fiona Apple/Alanis Morrisette-loving/men-hating cult followers. There was an overabundance of estrogen in the air that night. With her legs contorting in an Elvis-like fashion as she banged on the piano, Apple mostly sang songs of love in all of its notorious states: the good, the bad and the ugly. Though she may no longer be the same angst-ridden, scorned woman she depicted in much of her early music, she definitely took herself back there for this live performance. Apple performed with such emotional intensity it seemed the wounds were still fresh. I couldn’t help but stare in awe of how raw and real she was.
The mood lightened up a tad bit and Queen FiFi’s sassy side definitely made its way to the front stage, along with an actual firefly, when she played “Paper Bag” and “Anything We Want.” It was a magical moment.
Apple’s performance of “Get Gone” was surely one of the highlights of her nearly two hour set. At that point, I could not deal. It was like every girl’s diary come to life. Though I have never experienced having a crappy boyfriend and an even crappier breakup, I was holding back my emotions in fear of smearing my mascara.
Following that, Apple began stomping and jumping around while singing “Periphery.” What I love, and what I think most fans love about her, too, is how she really gives no f—ks. I really couldn’t figure out whether she was just feeling herself or if she was “on one.” Based on her recent arrest while on tour in Texas (for possession of marijuana and hashish), I’m guessing it’s the latter. While performing “Sleep to Dream,” she literally just stood there with her eyes closed for forty-five seconds, as the crowd watched her in an absolute trance. Out of all the shows that I have been to in my life, I’ve never seen any performer do anything like that.
The drummer, Amy Wood, and guitarist, Blake Mills, went wild beating and shredding away, as Apple silently stood on. Awkward as it sounds, it was glorious to watch. “Extraordinary Machine,” probably one of her most famous songs and the titular track of her third album, came next on the set list. Suddenly, it was karaoke night and many of the audience members joined Apple in singing the song as she did some Thom Yorke-inspired dance movements.
It’s clear that she’s not one to hold back anything, no matter how … different her moves are. There were a few “Oh Fiona” instances where no one understood what she was saying or doing, but awkwardly laughed because it’s Fiona Apple and you better laugh because she is queen. At one point, she randomly walked across the stage doing some sort of Popeye/bro/sailor impersonation and the crowd was silent in confusion. She then said, “That’s a rule for life. If you do something stupid, do it again.” Pretty much the Fiona Apple version of “YOLO.”
No Fiona Apple public appearance lacks a bit of eccentricity. Before performing “Daredevil,” she began applying deodorant at the piano and laughing hysterically. Out of nowhere, her bassist began plucking his strings to the tune of “Happy Birthday.” To my surprise, it was the two-hour countdown to Fiona’s 35th birthday, and she expressed gratitude to the crowd and announced “Not About Love” would be the last song she sang as a 34-year-old. The crowd refused to let her off that easy, so she made an exception and finished us off with “It’s Only Make Believe.” It was so peaceful and entrancing that not a word was spoken from the crowd. Her raw, uninhibited emotion paired with my raw, uninhibited ovulation made for one unforgettable night.