Fiona Apple Concert Review
On Milwaukee   
Mar 16, '00

by Jeff Sherman

Fiona Apple has been a bad, bad girl. At a recent show, she curled up into a fetal position, went crazy and stomped off stage like a mad little schoolgirl. But who really cares about her recent hysterics when she has a voice like the one that she brought to Milwaukee's Riverside Theater on Monday, March 13?

Fiona Apple, the fragile yet mesmerizing 20 something rocker, has one of those voices. You know the type, deep, bellowing, sultry yet calmly docile. The type of voice that could tell you "to sit down and shut up" and you would gladly obige without batting an eye. In fact, you would even plead for more verbal abuse. Thank you, Fiona, may I have another ... Fiona's voice cracks, it breaks, and it wiggles its way through your body. It haunts, it charms, it seduces and it captivates.

Yet, who is this woman-girl behind the voice? Out of virtually nowhere, a 19-year-old Fiona Apple established herself a visionary singer and songwriter with her 1996 debut album Tidal. I'll admit to knowing very little about Ms. Apple, but according to her official web site she grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and can hardly remember a time when she didn't sing. "I'd come home from school and hang up my keys on a keychain that was right beside a mirror. I'd look in the mirror and realize that I was singing. I sang all the time." Her father a television actor, her mother a former dancer and singer, Fiona listened early to jazz standards--still her music of choice--and began exploring her creativity. She read (John Irving and Maya Angelou remain favorites), dreamed, played piano, and soon began writing songs.

From a first gig (in Paris, no less) to Saturday Night Live guest spots; profiles in Rolling Stone, Time, and The New York Times; and early tour dates with Chris Isaak, Fiona moved on to stellar appearances on the 1997 Lilith Fair tour and sold-out headlining concert hall performances. Her videos for "Criminal" and "Sleep To Dream" became ubiquitous on MTV as Fiona's music seized the imagination of listeners attuned to a new sound--a sound of naked emotion and profound artistry.

Today she is touring in support of her new album, When the Pawn. I took a chance on an extra ticket (Mr. Roloff, may we never again question your musical tastes) and I must say that I am now a Fiona fan. How can't you be? 

Her presence on stage was one of a scared substitute teacher. Again, you know to the type. Confident, yet frightened out of her gourd. Beautiful, yet possessing weird quirks that would keep you at arms length. Fiona enchants through her angst, shines through her hysterics and connects through her moves. 

In Sullen Girl, she sings, "I need fuel, to take flight." Fiona's fuel is her voice. Despite throat problems at Monday's show, her fuel propelled her fragile body and made, at least this boy, a fan. She sang, but had a hard time speaking. Not knowing what to do or how to communicate in between her songs - there's no, "hey Milwaukee great to be here." from Fiona she let her singing voice do the talking.

The show was only about 75 minutes long, but its energy, quality and uniqueness were more than worth the price of admission. Even though her show used the same song set as a recent performance in Chicago, in a world of bubble-gum pop music, Fiona stands out. She is uninhibited, confident and one darn good performer.