Fiona Apple at Chicago Theatre | Photos and review
Tuesday night’s audience at the Chicago Theatre quickly grew restless in anticipation of folk-pop icon Fiona Apple. From the hoards of women looking to revisit their high school poet of choice (sorry, Jewel) to the dude in the Pantera tee and camo shorts, the sold out theater eagerly awaited their unpredictable headliner. But when Apple finally did take the stage, she really took it—instantly transforming it into a raw and vulnerable space, melting the boundaries between concert and performance art.
Without the slightest acknowledgement of her audience, Apple opened her set with “Fast As You Can,” unleashing a surging force of emotion that would not falter for the remainder of the evening. Oscillating between the piano, occasional percussion and standing at the center mic, she never lost her crowd’s attention. But despite the endless confessions of love from the balcony, it was clear from the beginning that Apple intended to maintain a bulletproof fourth wall. The theatrics were heightened through dramatic lighting, further removing what was happening on the stage from the spectators.
From “Paper Bag” to “Anything We Want,” Apple covered a fair amount of discographic ground while erring on the side of oldies. In “Every Single Night” Apple laments, “I just wanna feel everything”, a sentiment that pervaded her performance. Regardless of album, each song packed extreme devotion as the muscles in her body were constantly flexed, as if conjuring every ounce of physical and emotional strength to assist her delivery. With moments that felt like modern interpretative dance paired with hauntingly raw vocals, her body served as a continuation of the lyrics. As the set wore on it became increasingly clear that this was not a musical recital but a multi-disciplinary performance of self—a role in which Apple never broke character.
After a requisite rendition of “Criminal,” Apple briefly slinked into the wings only to burst back for a finale cover of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe,” swapping the original’s down-home croon for melancholy earnestness. Before leaving the stage the separating wall finally came down in time for her to deliver a few thank yous and a goodnight. Reflecting upon the emotional onslaught that was Apple’s performance, it’s easy to see why some might consider her cold or distant—but that critique misses the point completely. A true and honest performer, she refuses to be anything but a concentrated version of herself.