Fiona Apple has been performing an impressive string of shows in support of her latest album The Idler Wheel..., which in the eyes of many fans indicates a rebirth for the artist, and also a chance to make up for the time she's missed since her last release seven years ago.
An ambiguous cloud shadowed the Montreal show during the weeks leading up to it: would concert-goers and fans be willing to dish out a whopping seventy dollars (and upwards of ninety dollars for assigned seating) to see her perform after such a long hiatus? Clearly the Grammy Award-winning artist is a phenomenal talent, but that price tag sort of stuck out like a sore thumb. Either way, if one is an above-average fan of any musician there's a good chance they will pay the high price-tag to see them; and for this show, L'Olympia de Montréal was at three-quarters capacity.
Apple took the stage a couple of minutes before 9:00 accompanied by her five-piece band that included guitarist Blake Mills and bassist Sebastian Steinberg—the duo also served as the night's opening act playing a handful of numbers, including a few cover songs. A dim-blue light cast over Fiona Apple as she came out to a hero's welcome and slid right in to the song "Fast As You Can".
The sixteen-song set relied heavily on tracks from her first three albums Tidal, When The Pawn..., and Extraordinary Machine. It was slightly surprising that Apple did not play more material from her latest release, considering it has been getting rave reviews from nearly every paper and blog on the planet. However, Apple aficionados were left absolutely mesmerized by her presence, and by her choice to feature her older material. By the third song "Shadowboxer", Apple had the crowd in the palm of her hand and anything she performed easily pleased her audience.
Memorable moments included the crowd's first proper sing-along to the title track from 2005's Extraordinary Machine, along with new songs "Werewolf", "Anything We Want", and a drawn-out version one of her strongest tracks "Sleep To Dream" from the deluxe edition of The Idler Wheel....
One thing that could have upset a few fans was that Apple seemed more of a front woman to her band than a singer-songwriter seated at the piano. Known mostly as the latter her entire career, Apple played piano for merely three or four songs. This could definitely have been a legitimate complaint for someone who paid a hefty fine to see more of her hammering down on the keys.
On the contrary, Apple's stage presence was quite impressive. She ran around directionless and danced uncontrollably, much to the crowd's delight. It felt more like a rock show, despite the intimate setting. A familiar scene for those who remember the notorious video, Apple performed the majority of the song "Criminal" crouching on the floor, which almost felt nostalgic. The encore was a pleasant rendition of Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe", and her performance ended with a loud ovation from the highly-entertained crowd.
For a person who is not that knowledgeable of Fiona Apple's work (besides knowing all the words to "Criminal"), they would have definitely enjoyed the show. For die-hard pundits of her work, this could have been one of the best shows they have ever seen since Apple treated them to a career-spanning set. For someone who really wanted to see more of the new album and more piano, they could have easily left disappointed. It all depends on how one looks at it. Regardless, Apple definitely brought her best game to Montreal, even if she might be steering in another direction.