By Hollister Dixon
- Some shows are difficult to find an angle for. Angles aren’t always necessary, but the tour that Fiona Apple and Blake Mills have embarked on, it seems, is fairly fluid. There was no opener, but simply Apple and Mills onstage together, with a drummer and upright bass player, tearing through each other’s songs, and songs they’ve written together. Of last year’s The Idler Wheel, four songs were played: “Every Single Night”, “Left Alone”, “Regret”, and “Anything We Want”. The second song was “The First Taste”, a cut from Tidal that had never been played live before. I am unfamiliar with Blake Mills as a songwriter, but the songs of his that were performed were nothing short of magical.
- During the show, I began mentally writing this article. This article was going to make mention of Apple’s appearance: she appeared somewhat sickly and stick-thin. I rarely look at photos of Apple, and I was unprepared for how thin she is. I need to say now: her appearance is entirely meaningless, but considering her history of breakdowns, it felt somewhat relevant, though not truly. However she looked, she performed perfectly, and laughed her way through a lot of on-stage mess-ups. Portland’s show was the very first of this tour, and it was clear that some rust needed to be shaken off. Other than those mess-ups, you could really never tell that there was any rust at all.
- Onstage, Apple and Mills delighted in playing with the songs they had written together, with Apple intoning that she was glad that they were “songs the label didn’t have their hands on yet.” She apologized profusely for mistakes, which were never bad enough to stifle the performance. “People go to NASCAR to see the crashes, and not the finish,” Blake intoned after a failed start to “Anything We Want” (This was a wildly appropriate bit of foreshadowing, but we’ll get to that in a few moments). It’s hard to overstate how enjoyable the two are onstage together. At one point, the two engaged in an argument about Billy Joel, in which the term “Billy Joel fan” became derogatory, and Apple confessed to being a hesitant fan of “Uptown Girl”, despite what part of “Uptown” is implied. ” At another point, Mills began to introduce “Left Alone” while Apple stood stretching. When she looked at her setlist and realized what song was up, she yelled “Oh fucking Christ!” and ran over to her piano.
- You’re going to be reading a lot about this performance in the future. What came at the end of the show sullied the entire performance, and there’s really no way around any of it. With exactly one song to go, an audience member in the balcony yelled out, “Please get healthy, we want to see you again in 10 years.” Out of context, and from a friend, these words might come across with care and concern. That isn’t how it comes off when you’re in the darkness of a nearly sold-out theater. Apple stopped the performance immediately, calling for the person to be ejected immediately. Before changing her mind, she went as far as to have the house lights turned on so that she could watch them leave. She proceeded to rail against the paparazzi at large, for spreading half-truths and hate-speech about her since the 90s, and thanked The Oregonian for clearly listing every contributor to the paper, as opposed to the staff of TMZ who hide from view. She railed against label-heads for stifling her creative output in the past, and making her feel worthless. She tried to leave the stage several times, coming back each time amidst cheers of admiration, support, and love from her fans. She tearfully, begrudgingly finished the final song, apologizing for the intrusion, threw her handbells down, and left, leaving the audience to try and figure out what had gone wrong.
- I’m going to struggle to remember this performance for what it was: a fantastic performance by four incredibly talented musicians, who worked in lockstep with each other at every turn, even when they were still trying to figure out what the hell they were doing. I should be remembering it for being a magical kickoff to a whirlwind tour, and a great taste of what’s to come for two fantastic musicians. Instead, I’m writing this article before news outlets and tabloids get in a few words about how Fiona Apple had another meltdown, all because one person couldn’t keep quiet. Should it be the fan’s job to walk on eggshells? Certainly not, but it is their job to not yell out things about someone they know very little about, well meaning or not.
- Fiona Apple is a creative genius, even if she has a history of being easily-unwound. She doesn’t deserve for her tour to have a stormcloud above it before it even gets out of the gate.