Fiona Apple @ The Warfield Theater
San Francisco, CA
MTV Review    Dec 14  '97

by Rebecca Paoletti

It began on a funereal note.  When the soft red lights first revealed the piano on the dark stage, the figure that sat there bore only a ghostly resemblance to the girl-woman that is Fiona Apple.  Her hair pulled up into a tight bun, her torso and head enshrouded in a black hooded sweatshirt, the melody rose up -- detached, spooky -- and the audience shuffled a bit, glanced around nervously.  There was magic there, but it wasn't what they were expecting.  To see a shadow and no boxing was not why they had come.

Fifteen minutes later the first direct words to the enthusiastic audience were uttered: "I'm in a mood. Really, I am.  I just thought I should let you know."   And with a girlish shrug, she stepped back from the mic to sip something from a big black mug.  Turns out it's tea -- "throat tea, yogi tea," she said.   Fiona Apple is tired and sick, yet still willing to give her utmost to a crowd that is desperately in love with her.

Just as her songs can turn from mournful to playful in an instant, so, too, did the mercurial Apple transform from pouty adolescent to engaging performer in control of the piano, the mic, the stage, the hundreds of critical fans.  The hooded teenager slouched over the piano, emotionless, and -- refusing to make eye contact -- was suddenly talking to her fans, telling stories.  She thanks a woman in the audience for a postcard the woman had sent.  "She told me to give it to someone I love," Apple says, blushing and hesitant.  "Well, I gave it to my boyfriend, and he loves it." She stands back, shrugs again, turns to the woman with a sweet smile.   "So, thanks. Really."

Hair unknotted, long and straight again, Apple strips down, and the layers of protection come with it.  Sweatshirt comes off, T-shirt comes off, and a violet camisole over a slip-skirt, sweatpants, and sneakers become her costume for the evening.  Or her reality.  You never can tell with this 19-year-old star, who's been tapped to be a solo queen and is growing up fast.
Laying out the tracks from her hit album, Tidal, one after the other, interspersed with gulps from her steaming tea mug, Apple seems to feed on the energy of the audience.  She is clearly tormented, wrapping the mic cord around and around her hand, straining at it and then fiercely tugging loose at the bonds she alone is responsible for.  When the first notes of "Shadowboxer" begin, the audience erupts, their nervousness finally gone, their willingness to sing and move and feel again renewed.

Apple's "mood" seems to have, at least for the moment, dissipated.  She readies herself for the next song, then stops, walks to the edge of the stage, smiles shyly, and softly thanks the crowd.  "You're really amazing," she says.   "Thanks, really.  You're a really great audience."  Then she steps back, and readies herself again.  The crowd is positively charmed.

And with a smile, she begins the tough-rocking "Criminal" with, "You've been a bad, bad fucking audience," with a giggle and a smile, and then she's back on the attack, and the good, no bad, no good audience is rocking with her.

No, you never can tell with Fiona Apple.  She's human, just like the rest of us.   And humans tend to do the strangest things.  fin