On Saturday night, Fiona Apple and her longtime collaborator Blake Mills brought their much-anticipated Anything We Want tour to Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre. This was not a show for fair-weather Fiona fans who wanted to hear her “greatest hits”, as she didn’t touch material like “Criminal”, “Extraordinary Machine”, or her 2012 song “Hot Knife”, the latter made popular by this mesmerizing video released earlier this year:
It also wasn't a show for concertgoers used to having their cell phones out for a majority of the show for videos, photos and social media-mania. As the house lights dimmed, an announcer asked that all electronic devices be turned off. Most fans complied. Those who did not were approached by members of the security staff.
I applaud Apple's decision to keep the show cell phone-free. These days, it seems that most fans have their glowing phones out for a majority of the show. It's distracting, especially at an intimate show like the one given by the 36-year-old Apple.
Now if she could just do something about the fans who insist on shouting out song requests, "I love You"s, and other unwanted exclamations that similarly spoil the mood of the room. Of course, those overexcited fans are at least better than the pair of wine-drunk "women" who sat in row R immediately behind me and DIDN'T SHUT UP FOR THE ENTIRE SHOW.
Who are these people and why do they think its OK to cackle, chatter and otherwise demonstrate their obnoxiousness? It's a terrible photo, but if you see these women sitting anywhere near you at a concert that you want to actually pay attention to, just leave.
Apple may have scored a standing ovation for the encore-free show, but it was pretty clear from some of the conversations I overheard and from some of the folks I spoke with after the show that the opinions were actually pretty mixed.
Here's a sampling:
"Well, that was horrendous. I guess they were all songs from her last album."
"Fiona Apple and Blake Mills just gave Philly the business. Whoa... It was pretty phenomenal. A particular treat that I can't seem to get out of my mind was when they did Conway Twitty's 'Make Believe.' Holy shit man."
"The sound was awful."
(I wouldn't necessarily agree that it was awful, but it was pretty bad at times. Way too much low end. When it was just Apple and Mills, it was alright, but when they were joined by the upright bassist and the drummer, those instruments unfortunately overwhelmed Apple's nuanced voice.)
"Anyone who didn't like it just doesn't get it. She is a creative genius."
"I didn't like Blake Mills at all. Way too much country-ness. And the whole thing seemed too rehearsed. It wasn't impulsive, which is what I dig about her. And the sound sucked."
"Raw. Spare. Explosive. Transcendent." - WXPN Review
And Twitter was pretty unanimous:
She didn't do Shadowboxer but her and Blake Mills' musicianship is undeniable. She's almost an alternative version of Piaf.
— Jay Wahl (@mad_rhinoceros) October 20, 2013
Fiona was happy. It was like watching a soldier choke out a last laugh with the chaplain as his entrails oozed out on the battlefield.
— Annie Heckenberger (@anniemal) October 20, 2013
Fiona Apple & Blake Mills played their asses off in Philadelphia. @BreakMirrors you are guitar monster. Greatest live performance I've seen.
— magnetsandacurtain (@cthulhunotjesus) October 21, 2013