It’s not that Fiona Apple and Blake Mills can’t make this lo-fi ish meeting of minds work, they can and do. It’s that they can’t do it often enough.
Around the two thirds mark at Beacon Theater Thursday night, Fiona broke through the muso hi lo, well sung weirdness we’d been listening to all evening with a “Dull Tool” she has . This song is such a showstopping rethink of the This Is 40 track, I bought the entire soundtrack album off Itunes to get a hold of it. On record, it starts sweetly but it boils fast with an orchestral pasting while Fiona wails the hook. But at Beacon Theater, Fiona strips the song all the way down to shuddering drums and her long wollops and scats, roars and stutters the hook: “You don’t kiss when you kiss, you don’t fuck when you fuck…” A huge song and Apple delivers it.
But then Blake Mills equaled her in intensity on an even more obscure song, his own “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me”. Mills is part of the entire Fleetwood Mac In the 21ST century So Cal scene, indeed he actually dated a Haim sister and I am sure has played more times at Largo than Alyson Camus has even been there. And so far all that has meant was a weak presence offset by acoustic guitar licks that sound like Hawaiian country. Pleasant but many can it drag. Finally, Blake wakes himself up on this song, which he went back into the studio to add the shortest, like two line, response from a females perspective (“I don’t speak to our friends any more”) but you can kind of see why. Based upon the show so far, Blake nailed here an open handed expulsion from Eden. He is like Cain with a fringe.
But the rest of the show was way too often what I imagine the inbred exclusiveness of a Largo show to be. I saw Fiona in September 2012 and she was much better. The quieter acoustic stuff doesn’t work for her, her quirkiness gets intensely irritating when the music can’t help it, she is such a headcase people are terrified to interact in case you wanders off and after awhile she becomes really irritating, like that talkative new employee at work who you love and after half an hour firmly believe s/he needs a straitjacker. In a ghastly purple skirt and tights she looks awful. This isn’t a joke folks, she’s like the poster child for Christian Children’s Fund. People think you can never be too thin, but apparently you can.
And she is so fucking annoying. This is working against her, she needs the foil of loud music to signify and also to let loose the dogs of war, And she doesn’t. Song after song starts song and fizzles and while she jumps around and swears and loses her train of thought and acts it up, it isn’t charming, it is scary. You keep on wondering if she is gonna lose it –the evening has an unease of her own making.
The problem here is that despite Fiona having a foil on this tour, Blake isn’t big enough to fill the fuels, between the two of them they can’t quite fill the stage. It is a tense evening. Only Fiona could make an audience wary at how to react to a self-professed joke: “Why did the 17 year old sign the contract…?”
The show had moments, Fiona played well off the ubiquitous Questlove during an OK take on “Not About Love”, “Anything We Want “ is the second best song of the night, the Conway Twitty goes on too long but it is a fair enough, amd Blake’s “It’ll All Work Out” was quietly amusing.
But the two hour set dragged and how, every song went on too long, the acoustic Blake fest might work at Largo but at the Beacon we need more meat to our bones and though the best thing about the entire evening was maybe the most important thing, Fiona’s singing, her voice instrument that drips with feeling, it isn’t enough to carry the night all the way.
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