...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...

Oh, Fiona, Why'd you do it... What'd you do that for?

When I was a young'un, we used to like to go to the Southgate movie theater, buy a box of Good & Plenties, and, as we watched the movie, suck and nibble off the sweet outer-coating of the Good & Plenties and then spit out the disastrously yucky black-licorice insides onto the floor. (Yes, we were brats.)

Last night's Fiona Apple concert at the House of Blues:

Fiona Apple--the painfully sweet and fragile outside to be nibbled at.

Fiona's band--the bland, bitter, highly-distasteful black-licorice insides.

What can I say? Fiona rocks, and of course anyone who likes her albums expects as much in a concert because, well, the girl's got talent. She's got a killer voice, both on recordings and live. She oozes with foxy sexiness both on recordings and live. And she plays a mean piano. She didn't disappoint on any of these fronts last night.

The only problem: I kept finding myself asking, WTF is up with the accompanying band???

Fiona rolled out hit after hit accompanied by a band that sounded tepid at best and horribly out-of-tune in their worst moments. I felt like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone or something at times, the band sounding very frequently as though they were playing a completely different song than Ms. Apple, both in emotion and in plain old musical styling. I found myself wanting to turn around to someone and say, "Is this band serious?? Is this really how they're accompanying the illustrious Fiona Apple??"

I kid you not when I say that once or twice, the band was seriously seriously out of tune. At other times, they sounded delightfully like a prom-band which complimented a couple Apple songs. But then they'd seep into this completely bland, completely New Q 104 elevator-style music or bust out a terribly unnecessary breakdown/jam-session on drums or piano that seemed completely out of place with the mood and spirit of Fiona's music. They were skilled musicians, but they were bland bland bland--perhaps one of the worst back-up bands I've heard live.

All that being said (Fiona--seriously. Listen to me, girl. Either get yourself a better back-up band or just do your thang solo, because you've got mad skills and could rip that stage up with narry a thing but you and your piano), Fiona seriously has some bad-ass stage presence and a killer voice. Not like we doubted that in the first place, after three albums exhibiting exactly that (*AND* killer lyrics to boot). She tore the place up with songs from all three albums, though primarily from her newest, "Extraordinary Machine." Strangely, one of my favorite songs she did (not counting the whole encore which was one of the best encores I've seen) was the normally mild "Oh Well" which tore from her lips like a freshly-beating heart just ripped from someone's chest.

And her encore, oh her encore. Truly one of the best I've seen, and I'm not a fan at all of the whole concept of the obligatory encore (one of the reasons I adore The Strokes so much--other than the fact that they're smoking hot and make some damn sexy music--is that they are the only band I've seen who has denied the crowd the obligatory encore and, man, do I just eat that shit up). But Fiona killed. She busted out a version of "Extraordinary Machine" (one of my favorite songs on her new album), accompanied by upright bass and David Garza (her opener--who was mind-numbingly dull during the opening act) on guitar, and her performance of this song just steamed and dripped and wound its legs tightly around your waist like some half-nekkid sweaty little brunette. The performance of this song is perhaps one of the only times that I've ever actually been pleased with (and got goosebumps from) the audience singing along--it lended beautifully to the song, especially during the chorus. And Fiona Apple was just so goddamn cute with her mannerisms during it. Gah. I could eat her up. She followed that with the ever-popular "Criminal" which she rocked out on, to the deafening roar of the crowd. And she finished, much to my blissful appreciation (and the One F Man's as well), with one of my favorite songs off her new album, "Parting Gift" which she played with just her and her piano and which, with its magnificently smart lyrics and lovely melody, ended the night perfectly.

All in all, the concert was well worth the $50. My last experience with the House of Blues at a Ryan Adams' show left me skeptical about the whole venue, but last night was a much better experience--much less bar chatter, a good view of the stage, and a nice wall to lean on. Fiona Apple was amazing with that voice of hers--I am glad that I got the rare opportunity to see her perform since she doesn't seem to tour much and/or often. Ultimately, the accompanying band should be drawn and quartered, one at a time, perhaps to the tune of "Limp," and Fiona Apple should be left to baby her audience with just her magnificent voice and her piano. But I guess if I've gotta bite the bullet and listen to the band in order to get a taste of Fiona, I'd gladly accept the blistering bang.



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