On Fiona Apple bullying and her lackluster Miami Beach appearance

October 5, 2012

Anyone who follows Independent Ethos knows an artist’s perceived popularity matters little to this blog. What matters is the work produced, though sometimes the circumstances under which that work is produced matters. Take Fiona Apple’s current tour. When it stopped into Miami Beach over the weekend, something felt … flat. I had last seen her perform in Washington D.C., during the heat wave of ’06 in an outdoor venue. Though sweat poured off her, she offered boundless energy (read a review by “DCist”). She also seemed happy, noting last time she was at that venue was in the womb of her mother, as her father performed in a play there.

But, my how news coverage of an arrest for hashish possession can change things. Sure, it must have been a bummer for her, but probably magnifying the clouds over the tour where several things that unfolded in the mass media afterward. First her mugshot in prison stripes was circulated by the higher-than-though gossip media machine. Later, she lashed out against the arresting cops on stage. The audience video went viral. Then, the arresting police department’s spokesperson had the tacky idea to comment publicly telling her to “Shut up and sing” and “I’m more famous than you are.” Adding more insult was one famous and longtime unethical blogger’s idea to analyze her appearance on this current tour.

In response to it all, Apple most recently felt inclined to preempt her second Florida show this past Monday night by sitting down to offer a diatribe of her experiences in this losing battle with the larger voices of the conglomerate monster of the Internet. Watch the unedited near 9-minute thing here:

What a shame that a few people abusing their big metaphoric bullhorns have affected Apple’s performance quality. If she feels inclined to start a show with a speech like the one above, it’s ignorant to think it is not affecting her. The show is a stripped down affair with minimal theatrics, which is all the more reason to skip the personal distractions and focus on the marvel that is Apple’s music. Her new album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, was a welcome return after seven years of recording studio silence. The vinyl record was made for such a work. Her voice is pure and raw, and the recording captured all the wonderment of beating the heck out of a piano. From the moment her fingertips touch the keys to the reverb of the strings, the entire beast of the instrument is on fine display.

But the weight of all these superficial concerns of image, fighting for hits on pop culture blogs and Apple’s silly idea to take heed to what the bullies of the Internet have to say dampened the show in Miami Beach. It felt brief, especially after she sprung off stage and did not return for an encore. The house lights went up soon after she bounded off, so this was probably planned. Still little, if anyone cared, as all the cheering stopped soon after the lights went out and people shuffled out with little a care. It was a lackluster performance, as she went through the motions. Here’s one subdued moment:

As this latent post reveals, I almost did not even bother writing about the show, I felt so underwhelmed. I was the guy nodding off a couple of times during the set. I was able to stay awake enough to capture some clips, but my wife captured this last one:

Though the first minute of the song is missing, it offers an interesting moment on stage for the singer. She and the band extend the pauses in the song, creating a playful tension as Apple waits for cues from her drummer. Though she’s laughing at the thrill of anticipation, the moment she sings, her voice carries an impressive weight. Apple is still an honest, potent musician and God bless her for it. She will probably only get better as the superficial media gets bored and stops covering her silly stumbles, and she starts to ignore the coverage, so she can focus on her fantastic music.

I’d be dreaming to think this type of high school-level-type news coverage of art will ever stop. But, by coming to this blog, you support intelligent coverage of music and film that sticks to the art and keeps irrelevant personal coverage out of the mix. We can all learn from this and be better.

Her tour continues at these following dates:

10/05 – Louisville, KY @ Palace Theatre
10/06 – Cincinnati, OH @ Aronoff Center
10/07 – Columbus, OH @ Palace Theatre
10/09 – Buffalo, NY @ Kleinhans Music Hall
10/11 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
10/12 – Montclair, NJ @ Wellmont Theatre
10/16 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
10/17 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5
10/21 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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