After five quiet years without touring, Fiona Apple took the Lincoln Hall stage this week without a word and “Fast as You Can” she was back. The announcement of her mini-tour caused frenzy among fans, who assaulted the venue’s servers in unprecedented numbers, crashing the site in many cases and causing an outrage among the incensed and ticketless. Few situations send my heart rate into such a palpitated state as the purchasing of prized concert tickets, but I made damn sure I would see Fiona. A second show was added to the tour’s Chicago stop only, and those of us lucky enough to see the songstress can attest her live concert was as captivating as ever.
The powerful performance included classics like “Sleep to Dream” and “On the Bound,” closing with “Criminal.” Just as alluring were three new songs Fiona debuted from her upcoming album due out this June, “Anything We Want,” “Valentine,” and “Every Single Night.” The audience shouted its admiration between songs and Fiona came out of her reverie to smile in thanks. She infused the show with her brand of whimsy, breaking into the occasional jig and featuring an old kitchen pipe as a percussion piece.
Fiona’s reflective and recalcitrant music shaped my adolescence while my classmates memorized boy band dance moves. If you had asked me my favorite poems in junior high, I would have named Fiona’s When the Pawn… and Prufrock, budding lit major that I was. I imagine more than one high school relationship argument was fueled by overexposure to her lyrical indignation on a given day. The first time I saw Fiona Apple live involved driving five hours across Ohio (including a stop to pick up my cousin, a fellow Fiona-phile) and ending up back on campus just in time to hand in a final exam. That show was the most passionate, eloquent, and spellbinding performance I had ever seen, and more than one audience member was moved to tears.
Her performance this week at Lincoln Hall was just as enthralling. Fiona does not just sing; it’s an entirely visceral enterprise as if the crowd is privy to a physical and emotional internal journey she’s experiencing number by number. While her vocals range from her characteristic sultry growl to heart-shattering highs and belts of bravado, the singer swirls and paces onstage. Fiona is perhaps most emotive when commanding the piano keys, framed by the glow of a few red church votives. Otherwise her hands wring, tug at her skirt, flutter through the air, or clutch the microphone with white knuckles, as when crooning “”I just want to feel everything, so I’m gonna try to be still.”
Fiona Apple gives all of herself when performing; rendering fans all the hungrier for the rare times she shares her unrivaled talent onstage. Connecting with some of her old songs that are such a part of me and revisiting them with new insight was all the more poignant. No matter the absence, Fiona Apple’s power, honesty, and grace are always resonant, always craved as long as she is willing to share them – the mark of a truly extraordinary machine.