Fiona Apple at the Peabody Opera House, 7/14/12: Review, Photos and Setlist

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Kholood Eid
Fiona Apple | Blake Mills
July 14, 2012
The Peabody Opera House

Fiona Apple is not afraid of silence -- but at least a few of her St. Louis fans might be. At Apple's concert Saturday at the Peabody Opera House (1400 Market Street; 314-499-7600) there were more than a few moments when hootin' and hollerin' from a few rowdy audience members seemed to threaten not only the experience of enjoying the singer's gripping live performance, but also maybe the singer herself. To Apple's credit, her performance wasn't at all deterred, despite the obnoxious lady sitting in the mezzanine who punctuated every other song by yelling, "Rock it out, Fiona!"

If it seems unfair to criticize vociferous fans at a concert, I submit that Fiona Apple isn't that kind of musician. There is already a skittishness to her stage presence, a feeling that too much of anything will throw off the precarious balance that her talents demand. Upon entering the Peabody, multiple ushers urgently informed me to remember that, "There's no flash photography allowed at tonight's show. If the artist sees one flash go off she'll exit the stage." Effuse praise all you like, St. Louis, but please don't send her walking off stage.

But then the Fiona Apple who haunted spotlights at last night's show was more restrained, less skittish, more firmly in control if only slightly uncomfortable. There was writhing on the floor, there was manic dancing with abandon, but wild gesticulation played second fiddle to the current of furious emotion firing through each song, every falsetto, every playful or anguished note. In the thick of a ballad her visceral passion and honesty swelled, threatening to burst, but its final chords found her calmed, even renewed.

It's been a long time since Fiona Apple was in St. Louis, and prior to the June 19, 2012, release of her fourth album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, she hadn't released a record since 2005's Extraordinary Machine. On that album's titular track she states plainly, "I'm good at being uncomfortable, so I can't stop changing all the time," a feeling that takes on new meaning in her evolved stage presence and approach. Whether she's more comfortable or better at hiding discomfort isn't clear, but it makes for a startling, stunning and cathartic show where the defining characteristic is damn good music.

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Kholood Eid
Show opener Blake Mills -- alongside drummer Amy Wood and upright bassist Sebastian Steinberg -- plays not only tour support for Apple's jaunt across the country, but also the trio, along with Zac Rae on keyboard, comprise her concert band. Mills is a dazzling musician in his own right, commanding an electric guitar with the skill of a craftsman. Halfway through his 35-minute set he more-or-less apologized for opening the show, commenting, "Somebody's gotta do it." The theater wasn't at capacity for the duration of Mills' bluesy, twang-tinged set, which was really a shame: His flawless fretwork and folksy sound unfolded dusty lullabies more subdued than Apple's but just as raw and true. He performed several songs from his 2010 album Break Mirrors, including the album's single, "Hey Lover," and wrapped up the soothing set with two covers; the first "Sleepwalk" from the movie La Bamba and the second "I'll Never Do You Wrong" by Joe Tex.

A neat 30 minutes after Mills exited the stage -- and the crowd at the Peabody filled out -- he and Steinberg, Wood and Rae returned, with Fiona Apple slinking to center stage as the lights abruptly shut off and just as abruptly reignited, as Apple opened with "Fast As You Can" from When the Pawn... (1999). The surging, frenzied-tempo cut launched a set heavier in fan favorites than The Idler Wheel... offerings, a gift to all who hadn't seen her since 1997, perhaps. Throughout the show the arresting, almost disorienting lighting followed the ebb and flow of each song, giving that much more form to Apple's expressive physicality.

Though part and parcel of her mythology, the wild, erratic movement and dancing was dialed down, nevertheless she offered an incarnation of it in anxious kicks and flailing limbs. "On the Bound," another gem from When the Pawn..., followed "Fast As You Can," with Apple moving from the center stage mic to the baby grand at stage left. "On the Bound," with all its longing and tension, found Apple hunched over the piano, her face razor-close to the instrument, grinding her fingers into the keys. As the song wretches to its maddening end she pauses briefly, still at the piano, and the first few notes of "Shadowboxer" from her debut, Tidal (1996), flood out. The strength and piercing honesty of her songs stir ghosts on stage, fettered, then floating, then freed. And it's on to the next one.


Location Info

Venue

Map

Peabody Opera House

14th St. and Market St., St. Louis, MO

Category: Music

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22 comments
Bro_Pelini
Bro_Pelini

I thought the crowd was pretty good, cheering at appropriate times and such. Pretty much every other concert I've attended has had people yakking it up during quieter parts, and I was very pleased that that wasn't the case here. I did think it was a little odd though that I didn't really see anyone moving around. I realize we're all seated, but Fast as You Can and On the Bound were rocking out pretty good, and I couldn't help but move around a little. I will admit to not making any noise at all though, since I was busy recording it. You can find one of the songs on youtube.

 

And to the guy saying tickets were expensive: It was really easy to find tickets below face. I could have picked up a 2nd row seat for 35 bucks. I settled for row P for 40 bucks, which was like 20 bucks under face.

kittylitter
kittylitter

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Jessica P
Jessica P

Liz, thanks for your review, this was far better than the crud the Post-Dispatch gave us in Monday's issue. I'm glad we have someone at the RFT writing about true artistry that knows something about what she's talking about. Liz: Do you know if this review will make it in Thursday's print edition, yet? I will say something about the nosiyness of the crowd. This was not a noisy crowd. I've been to see Fiona several times, trecking my way to Chicago when she was supporting When the Pawn and Extrodinary machine, and again to Peoria when she toured with NIcklecreek a few years ago. I will agree that sometimes, we may not think some of the more boisterous comments from the crowd might be appropriate, but admonishing people for feeling the music and vocalizing it isn't right either. I will say though, that I don't appreciate people loudly singing along, which I didn't really notice in my row CC seats next to the lighting/sound booth. I know every word and will gladly belt out the lyrics in my car or at home,  but at a concert, I realize that my neighbor probably only came to hear Fiona and not Jessica. But again, this crowd was not noisy, I didn't even notice the shout out you mentioned during the show or the person that was evicted for pot. I really loved that most of these fans were real fans, knew the music, knew when to applaud for the most part and didn't ruin that delicious pause near the end of "I know." However, I do feel some of the crazy energy I've seen at shows past was missing. I went to the Kansas City show on Tuesday as well, and there were cat-calls throughout, and people were even less respectful to Blake's opening set, talking behind me loudly as if they were in some night club, and not the beauitful Midland (similar to the Fox in splendor... and I realize has often been a standing room set, but we had assigned seats there).

Emilysrevolution
Emilysrevolution

1.  I submit to you that the artist that wrote the lyrics "Oh, you silly, stupid pastime of mine" is not so fragile that she loses her mind each time one of her many VERY DEVOTED fans, at the sheer elation of seeing her artistry live, shouts "We love you, Fiona" or "Rock it out!".   2.  I was actually just having a discussion with my social media peers about why St. Louis audiences have to be so lame that the only way they can enjoy a show is through silent and aggressive staring.  Please note that I was born here, I've lived her most of my life but I have also lived other places.  Where St. Louis is the ultimate baseball town, it is an epic failure as a concert town.  We have no great intimate small-medium size clubs anymore.  I call this the Mississippi Nights deficit.  But beyond that, our expectation as a town that real artists can only be silently adored unless at a bluegrass show is ridiculous.  It is not like this in ANY OTHER CITY.  I have only ever been shushed or heard others shushed in St. Louis.  I have only been mocked for dancing in St. Louis.  However, at a baseball game once I saw a girl throw up down 4 rows in front of her here and everyone was pretty cool and helpful to her.  LIGHTEN UP ST. LOUIS.  Try a little joie de vivre.  Dance.  Sing.  Loosen your polos and khakis a bit (or your Roman sandals and maxi dresses in the case of this show).  Have a great time in spite of the rest of us enjoying ourselves.  You should be in a really awesome mood after getting the other concert goers kicked out anyway.

Sammychazzz
Sammychazzz

I disagree with the above review which focuses less on how outstanding the music was and more on how wrong a few people were for enjoying the show.  At one point during the second song I glanced around and to my dismay found that I was one of about seven people who were moving during the show.  I am sure that even the dour and introspective Fiona Apple appreciated the signs of life from the crowd even if you did not.  As a former touring musician I must say that a quiet room bothered me more than a boisterous room because at least I knew the fans were alive and into the music.  The person in (whatever location you said they were in, I trust you) who kept yelling during the pregnant pauses at least got smiles from Ms. Apple.  The show was fantastic and the audience, in my opinion, was not appreciative enough.  To the fans who thought the night needed a more sullen level of noise and movement, fine, it's your money...but keep in mind that 1 out of about every 6 smartphones in that place were not taking pictures, they were in a lap with hangman, facebook or whatever else on them.  Not good. Oh, and the fans that lit up...we smelled it, chuckled and that was the end of it.  I thought it was typical elitist bullshit that someone got them kicked out for it.  It's a concert.

Missy Fit
Missy Fit

Not the best review I've read.  Also, I did not see the guitar player's opening set, but I found him to be a relatively mediocre musician.  I missed being with friends both on stage and in the crowd at Riverport for El Monstero in order to attend the Fiona show and have to say that both Jimmy Griffin and Bryan Green are far, far better guitar players than the guy in Fiona's group.

Jacque Bourne-Hubbard
Jacque Bourne-Hubbard

 If only tickets had not been SO damn expensive, my ass would've been there. Tis a shame but then again, I own every album she ever made.

Steve Marshall
Steve Marshall

You are correct, Homesickorchestra. She played "It's Only Make Believe".

Jenvieve
Jenvieve

I agree with the above sentiments regarding the ill-timed shouts from the crowd. They were distracting and annoying in their persistence and didn't fit the tone of the performance. What I found truly dismaying and embarassing, however was the couple in Left Center row C who felt the need to light up a one-hit and smoke half-way through the performance. Thank you to the patrons who reported them and kuddos to the usher who wouldn't back down and escorted them out. There's a time and a place, people. Save it for The Black Crowes.

Julie
Julie

Thanks for the review! I will add my name to list of people who want to punch the (I'm sure well-meaning) mezzanine yeller.  It really wasn't that kind of show. As far as the encore goes, the cause for confusion might be because Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe" has the words "one and only you" in the song, but "One and Only You" sounds completely different. She sang, "It's Only Make Believe" Saturday night in St. Louis. I promise.

Was there
Was there

She played Mississippi Nights.... Morcheeba was the opener

Kiernan Maletsky
Kiernan Maletsky

We've spent some time trying to confirm definitively which Conway Twitty song she covered as an encore. It certainly seems like she's covered "It's Only Make Believe" more frequently, but I'm inclined to trust Liz since I wasn't actually at the show. Either way: Fiona Apple played seventeen songs and one of them was a Conway Twitty cover. Read all about it. 

Laura
Laura

It was really a great concert. I've never seen her live and wasn't sure how the moodiness of her albums would translate to the stage but there was so much energy and vitality to every song. I did want to punch that girl in the mezzanine though.

Steve Marshall
Steve Marshall

The encore was actually "It's Only Make Believe" (also a Conway Twitty song"

Liz Miller
Liz Miller

Hi Redmedicne! Thanks for the comment. I'll email the RFT music editor your comment. Unfortunately the RFT didn't have a website in 1997, so we don't have records to pull from for just this sort of information.

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