Fiona Apple/Hooverphonic
October 31 @ Electric Factory
Philadelphia City Paper    Nov 6  '97
by Neil Gladstone

If you went to a KISS show on Halloween, you could safely bet that much of the audience would be dressed up in platforms and greasepaint.

At a FIONA APPLE concert you get doe-eyed waifs who bare their midriffs.  But you also get wounded and dysfunctional characters who seem to have stepped out of the singer's debut album, Tidal (Work).   A dejected mime handed flowers to a stranger sitting on the Electric Factory's steps.  A teenybopper with a face full of tears screamed at her boyfriend and a smiling Bride of Frankenstein served up drinks behind the bar.  (Of course most of the people looked like they got their Halloween costumes at The Gap.)

Rumor around the Factory was that APPLE was feeling under the weather.  Flyers taped up around the ticket booth asked the audience not to smoke during the show.   APPLE's grand piano was shrouded in cobwebs and topped with a jack-o'-lantern.   The singer, in a black halter top, knee-length skirt and evening gloves, admitted she had no time to find a Halloween getup.  "I decided to be the goth girl who doesn't have a costume," she joked.  It didn't matter that her mane of nut-brown hair made her look more like one of the Witches of Eastwick, the crowd let out shrieks of approval for everything she did.  From the moody ballads like "Never is a Promise" to the funky, piano pop number "Criminal," the legion of fans rarely wavered in their adoration.

Though many of APPLE's songs are introspective ruminations she made the most out the ones that aren't.  Every cathartic chorus was delivered with a physical exorcism, be it swinging fists at imaginary demons or shaking the anger out through the tips of her split ends.  This adolescent chanteuse comes off like a world-weary veteran when delivering her tales of romantic woe.  But in between numbers APPLE was chipper and bratty, introducing her guitarist as a "crack whore" and Cartman from South Park.

At one point she demanded that a crew member get her pants from the tour bus because she couldn't continue in just a skirt.  It hardly mattered that her version of JIMMY CLIFF's "Sitting in Limbo" erased almost all of its reggae roots or that many of her moody melodies began running into one another, she made every song intimate and relevant.  At the end she was presented with bouquets of flowers.  With that mime nowhere in sight, it was a safe bet he was at the front of the stage.

The opening act, Belgium's HOOVERPHONIC, got into the spirit of All Hallows Eve by taking the stage in full costume.   Guitarist Raymond Geerts was a fairly impressive Paul Stanley in black Spandex and white face paint.  Drummer Eric Bosteels donned a Gene Simmons mask and keyboardist Frank Duchene was done up as Nosferatu.  Gykee, the 18-year-old vocalist who recently replaced Liesje Sadonius, wore a simple blue summer dress.

On the debut album, A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular (Epic), the band grafts torch song melodies onto trip-hop beats by layering samples, drum loops and Sadonius' breathy croon.  Live, Geerts' guitar lines propelled HOOVERPHONIC's sound.  The energy of the band seemed be determined by the texture of his guitar, vacillating from jazzy-smooth to saturated distortion.  Samples of scientific monologues and ISAAC HAYES' version of "Walk On By" were upstaged by the other instruments, never attaining the prominence they have on Sound Spectacular.  Gykee's soprano didn't have Sadonius' ethereal lilt, but it gave the tunes a little more depth and even moments of demure soul. Bosteels' woody drums supplied the band more bottom-end warmth than on record.  Even when his playing was enhanced with pre-recorded loops he still managed give the rhythms a human edge.  Unfortunately, the audience didn't seem to pick up on the danceability of HOOVERPHONIC's songs.  They were appreciative, but only enthusiastic during the single "2Wicky," which appeared on the Stealing Beauty soundtrack.  fin