“I just love doing a song with you, and I don’t care what the f*** everyone does,” said a visibly relaxed, and, dare I say it, happy, Fiona Apple on Friday night at the Boettcher Concert Hall, as she and guitarist Blake Mills readied to do one of Mills’ songs.
Apple traded songs with Mills throughout her set on Friday night and also reworked her own during a very mellow and almost outlaw country set that even included a Conway Twitty cover (“It’s Only Make Believe”).
Apple and her drummer, Amy Wood (who had an almost Bride of Frankenstein streak in her hair) kicked off the evening by standing at a blackboard on the stage and writing in chalk “Teach me how to be free.” During the evening, Apple made use of some props that she kept in a basket next to a drum, sometimes pulling out a series of chains and using them as percussion, or otherwise using a pair of drumsticks to emphasize her singing.
An early highlight was “Every Single Night,” on which Apple sang fiercely, coiled with tension, while Mills added distorted silky guitar runs underneath. Apple herself also played a big bass drum and harmonized with Mills on a couple of songs, including “Anything We Want.”
It was odd to see Apple channeling a manic pixie dream girl persona on stage, at times dancing and jumping. A brief sojourn to the piano found Apple poking fun at her mild breakdown on stage in Portland a week ago, where she ended up leaving the stage after being heckled by an audience member for her appearance. But Apple has always looked wan, and as she said in response to that heckler, “I am healthy.” On Friday, a microphone that refused to stay put as she was about to start “I Want you to Love Me” led her to state playfully, “The microphone is having a f***ing meltdown.”
Apple even channeled her 18-year-old self, poking fun at the speech she gave when she won the Best New Artist MTV Video Music Award in 1997, during which she said, ‘This world is bullshit.” A segue from Mills introducing the song “Dull Tool” from the “This is 40″ soundtrack and saying it should have been up for an Academy Award led Apple to give her pretend acceptance speech, saying that the speech she gave in 1997 had been when she was young and wanted to say something, but she had been wrong. She held an almost playful pose before saying, “It’s actually like if the cow shit, and ate it, and shit again, and ate it, and on and on and on.”
It was a cheerful night for Apple, especially since, as Mills pointed out, their last Denver show had been the night after the Aurora theater shooting and Denver had been in a state of shock. But it wasn’t enough fun to bring Apple back for an encore. The audience, giving her a standing ovation, was clearly puzzled, and even stayed for a few minutes after the lights had come on hoping to get Apple to return, but alas, it was not to be.
Tipple, The First Taste, Every Single Night, Anything We Want, Seven, It’s Only Make Believe, Curable Disease, I Want You to Love Me, Dull Tool, Left Alone, Waltz (Better than Fine), Regret