Apologetic Fiona Apple,
Frenetic Beck Take New Albums To Stage
Dec 7 '99
(Chicago's Twisted 6 concert - Dec 4 '99)

by Chris Nelson and Eric Arnum

Her set plagued by mic trouble, while he struts through rock and soul revue. 

Fiona Apple and Beck took their acclaimed new albums to the stage over the weekend in polar-opposite sets that reflected their differences in personality as much as their approaches to music.

At WPLY-FM's Y100 FEASTival holiday show Friday in Philadelphia, Beck laid down a confident rock and soul revue, complete with splits and melodramatic romance. The following night in Chicago, at WKQX-FM's Q101 Twisted 6 festival, Apple floundered through a 25-minute set that started with microphone problems and included several apologies from the singer/pianist. 

Introducing the soulful hit "Criminal" from her debut, Tidal (1996), Apple declared herself "The girl who doesn't know how to speak in public places."

Though she was difficult to hear in Allstate Arena, Apple's six-piece band pulled off with agility complex material such as "On the Bound," from her second album, When the Pawn ... The show was her first since the album (whose full title is 90 words) was released last month.

Before even playing a note, she was booed by some in the crowd after announcing she had microphone trouble. It was hard to tell whether the audience was fed up with the equipment or the singer.

At times, Apple seemed to take refuge in furious dancing. During the new single "Fast as You Can" (RealAudio excerpt) which adds hints of Stevie Wonder rhythm and Beatles melody to her emotionally intense lyrics Apple let loose in double time, stomping her feet, flailing her arms and sending her long brown hair skyward.

The set was sandwiched between performances by industrial rockers Filter and comedic pop-punks Blink-182, whose sets were better received. Still, Apple did receive some support. Pockets of fans shouted, "We love you!"

While the Windy City crowd was tough on Apple, the audience in Philly ate from Beck's hand.

He warmed up the First Union Center with cuts from Odelay (1996), as well as his first hit, "Loser." But it was during material from the new Midnite Vultures that Beck let it all hang out, with '70s soul swagger on full display.

In "Sexx Laws" he broke out the funky chicken. Later he capped off the falsetto slow jam "Debra" with airborne splits. Hamming up the song's desperate lyrics, he dropped to his knees and pounded his fists on the stage.

After a crowd-pleasing take on "Where It's At," DJ Swamp soloed on the turntables, scratching out the bassline for Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." Later, a three-piece brass section showed off synchronized dance steps from atop what looked like a circus elephant's footstool during "Devils Haircut."

Both Beck and Fiona Apple performed as parts of radio-sponsored holiday festivals. Electronica artist Moby, Brit-pop stars Oasis and the punk-influenced Foo Fighters played in Philadelphia and Chicago.

In Philadelphia, Moby and his band threw down a smirking rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," while in Chicago, Blink-182 urged fans to flick their Bics and sing "Silent Night" without delivering a punch line afterward.

Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl stepped into the Chicago crowd to croon the ballad "Ain't It the Life" from his band's recently released third album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose. It was a rare quiet moment in an otherwise aggressive, rocking set.

"We saw four great bands," said Jeff Lawson, 18, of New York, who spent much of the Philadelphia show under a crush of concert-goers near the stage. "I don't know if it was worth it to get beat up in the front row, but it was fun. It would have been nice to have longer sets, though."