Fiona Apple is a genius. Though she’s released just four albums, including her 1996 debut, each one is brilliant. Apple’s new one, The Idler Wheel…, is perhaps her best yet. Every listen reveals something different, which is rare in today’s mainstream musical landscape. To say I was highly anticipating the show at Old National Centre Wednesday night would be an understatement. And yet I can’t help but feel a bit let down.
Apple and her band were a polished (extraordinary) machine. Each song was a fluid piece of art that further highlighted what an impressive composer she is. But the efficient, 90-minute set felt methodical. One song blended smoothly into the next with Apple saying very little between.
The set list was nearly identical to other stops during this leg of the tour. After opening with Fast As You Can and On the Bound from When the Pawn — four of the first six were, somewhat surprisingly, from that album — she burned into early hit Shadowboxer. (Hard to believe that song is 16 years old.) A first-half high point was a rousing performance of Tidal’s Sleep to Dream with Apple stalking the stage and guitarist Blake Mills adding some welcome sizzle. Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song) from Extraordinary Machine was another one boosted by Mills. Yet those moments of elevated electricity were infrequent.
Of the new songs, Daredevil was particularly vibrant in the live setting, as was Anything We Want with it’s slippery groove and subtle but sticky hook.
I do wonder if Apple was at full strength. Her voice was strong but occasionally sounded a tad hoarse. If she was struggling, that could explain the lack of effort in connecting with the audience.
Apple rounded out the set with powerful versions of Carrion and her biggest hit, Criminal, before ending with an impressive torch song cover of Conway Twitty’s It’s Only Make Believe.
Apple and her band were spot on. I only wish there had been a little more of that live magic.
Were you there? What did you think of the show?