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October 10, 2013

Scene and Heard: Fiona Apple

Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew for Mathew Imaging

Editors' Notes

Fiona Apple and Blake Mills at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the L.A. stop on their Anything We Want tour.

Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew for Mathew Imaging

Editors' Notes

Sebastian Steinberg on bass, Fiona Apple, Barbara Gruska on drums, and Blake Mills at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the L.A. stop on Apple's Anything We Want tour.

Photo Credit: Craig T. Mathew for Mathew Imaging

Editors' Notes

Fiona Apple at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the L.A. stop on her Anything We Want tour with Blake Mills.

“I’ve been hushing him,” said singer-songwriter Fiona Apple as she took the stage on Monday, October 7, at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, pointing at singer and guitarist Blake Mills. The evening performance, part of Apple’s month-long Anything We Want tour that kicked off days earlier in Portland, placed the singers front and center at the Los Angeles Philharmonic‘s Frank Gehry-designed home. But Apple quickly laughed off such displays of reverence for the hallowed space and quipped, “Now that we’re here, I feel like taking the most risks.”

Before starting the two-hour set with Mills, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and drummer Barbara Gruska, Apple repeatedly scrawled the word “teach” on a chalkboard to the left of the stage. Eventually, the phrase “teach me how to be free” took shape, and Apple, clad in a light blue printed wrap dress, purple tights, and black boots, stepped up to the microphone. Though Apple, who has a home in Venice, California, noted that she never does a sound check, she and Mills, who coincidentally also wore a light blue printed shirt, blended their voices seamlessly.

Apple’s quirky demeanor, unabashed honesty, and confessional lyrics distinguish her from nearly every recording artist, especially those with a Facebook fan base. She’s not waiting for you to like her. On this night, she seemed entirely at home in the hall, quickly offering up “The First Taste” from her 1996 tripple-platinum debut album, Tidal, and “Every Single Night” from her latest record, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Server You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Apple smiled as she sifted through a bevy of objects including a glass decanter that she’d brought along for the concert. “I’m not being crazy, I’m just trying things I took from the hotel,” she said. She used the collected pieces to keep time and add percussive accompaniments to her songs and Mills’ solos.

Apple added extra beats to every song. The sound and loudness of the accompaniment depended on what instrument she was currently holding. She moved around the stage in languid but deliberate steps, stretching, playfully gathering her found instruments, bending back over the piano bench, or wrapping herself around a standing drum to feel the rhythm as she stuck it. Apple seemed to act out her “Every Single Night” lyrics, “I just wanna feel everything,” as the set progressed. Mills, equally relaxed as he alternated between guitars and even a ukulele, bantered with Apple throughout the evening. Steinberg adopted the tone of a helpless parent, noting, “It’s like this every day.” Mills co-founded Simon Dawes with Taylor Goldsmith (who is now lead singer of the band Dawes) and is known for his musical collaborations with Danielle Haim, Julian Casablancas, Band of Horses and Lucinda Williams. But with Apple, he seems to have found a true musical partner. Mills even joked that her portion of his poignant yet pithy new duet, “Seven” was like a Dolly Parton part.

Apple concluded the concert by humming, using her voice to stand in for a walk offstage to audience applause, and launched straight into the encore without moving from her spot. She finished with “Waltz (Better Than Fine),” the last track on her 2005 album, Extraordinary Machine. The song begins with a musical invitation, “If you don’t have a song to sing you’re okay, you know how to get along humming hmm.” In fact, the whole evening felt like an invitation to hum.

By Elizabeth Varnell

“The First Taste”
“Every Single Night”
“If I’m Unworthy”
“Anything We Want”
“Curable Disease”
“It’ll All Work Out”
“It’s Only Make Believe”
“Dull Tool”
“Don’t Tell Your Friends About Me”
“Left Alone”
“I Know”
“Waltz (Better Than Fine)”

Pictured: Fiona Apple and Blake Mills at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the L.A. stop in their Anything We Want tour.
Photo by Craig T. Mathew for Mathew Imaging

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