In Concert: Fiona Apple
SF @ Warfield Theater
FirstCut    Dec 14  '97

by Phil Hamilton

Fiona at Warfield1997 was a huge year for Fiona Apple. Between the success of her debut album, Tidal, and a spot performing with Lilith Fair, she was one of the best examples of why this past year has been so huge for female performers. But as the year is winding down, her success seems to have leveled off; starting with an embarrassing appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards in which every time she opened her mouth she seemed to dig herself into a deeper hole. I was interested to see how her live show would compare. Quite frankly, I was impressed and blown away by her soulful, live performance.

Fiona strode onstage to the delight of the screaming, sold-out audience and promptly sat at the piano. As she played, the crowd seemed transfixed by her presence, refusing to take their eyes off her. Apple spent a good portion of the evening there, playing with a heartfelt passion that made songs such as Sullen Girl and Shadowboxer come alive and sound even more intense than on the album. While many artists have trouble matching their studio sound live, Apple managed to exceed it.

Fiona interacted with the young crowd quite a bit between numbers, and initially warned everyone that she was "in a mood." But as the evening wore on, she loosened up and was actually downright giggly at times.

Prior to Sleep to Dream, she told a poem to the crowd and as she broke into the tune, carefully peeled off her hooded sweatshirt and thermal top to unveil a purple tank top that, along with a pair of black pants and white tennis shoes, would be her outfit for the evening. Of course, the shrieking crowd echoed its approval at the removal of each layer.

Fiona's voice seemed a bit raspy and she constantly sipped on a cup of tea to try to soothe it. However, it actually lent for a more soulful, sensual sound, especially on the funked up version of The First Taste that had the whole crowd dancing. During an explosive take on her hit, Criminal, Fiona pranced about the stage and worked the eager crowd into a frenzy with every move.

When the band left the stage, Fiona sat at the piano and delivered a powerful rendition of her new single, Never Is A Promise, that once again begged the question: Is this girl really only 20 years old? And was she really a teenager when she wrote "Never is a promise / and you can't afford to lie"?

Overall, Fiona put on a great show and proved to all the critics, myself included, who felt her shining star was starting to fade that they shouldn't write this young talent off so quickly. The future looks bright for Fiona Apple. fin