Perhaps I should start with the historic venue, or maybe the 90-degree humid air, or maybe Fiona Apple’s guitarist and bassist who opened the show. Or maybe I should even tell you about the delicious guacamole I had before the June 19 concert at Ithaca, N.Y.’s State Theatre.
But all I can think about is Fiona, who put me under a spell for the entire performance, allowing me to forget all those things until the house lights brightened and the post-show music came on, waking me from a wonder-induced nap.
I expecting a toned-down performance, maybe like the performance she had done the prior day on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. After all, she hasn’t done a full tour in years, so I wasn’t quite sure what kind of show we were going to get.
Thankfully, on stage in Ithaca, she was herself. And her presence echoed that of her recent SXSW performance, which I had reviewed back in April. Apple wore a black tank and a royal purple maxi skirt, which revealed her equally as purple tights when she clutched and tugged at it during a song. At one point, she tied the skirt between her legs, lifting it up into makeshift shorts to cool herself. She wore her hair down at first, fussing with it every chance she got. A front-row audience member stepped up to offer her a hair tie, and Apple happily accepted.
Did I mention it was hot? Oh my goodness, it was hot. And if I was sweating in a light sundress sitting down, I could only imagine how the band felt under the purple and red lights.
The stage crew set out a cool water basin for the singer, which she dumped over her head and mopped up the sweat with a cloth. At some points, I thought she’d faint right into the fan she stood in front of.
Apple started the set with “Fast As You Can” and “On the Bound,” both from sophomore album When the Pawn…, with a vigor coming so surprisingly from her little body. I’d hate to be another person to mention her thinness, but that voice… it was like she was summoning the devil inside. The anger and rumbling emotion that possessed her captivated me. And guess what? I think I started crying.
The show equally featured songs from all of Apple’s records, including The Idler Wheel…, released that day. Although listeners weren’t as familiar with songs like “Werewolf,” “Daredevil” or “Anything We Want,” she performed them with the same strength as “Shadowboxer” or “Sleep To Dream,” tunes she wrote as a teenager. She played piano only a few times but mostly took center stage to belt out her songs.
She ended the show with “Criminal,” the 1996 hit that has traveled well with the now 34-year-old. Despite the heat, she flailed, jumped and convulsed (in a good way) with her songs. She wound up the concert with a cover of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.”