Sept. 15 at The Joint
It’s amazing how one little woman can level an entire venue. But even in the moments during her Dec. 15 concert in which her superb backing band quieted, Fiona Apple’s rich, riveting voice and potent prose held the entire half-filled Joint in rapt attention.
Her command of the stage felt stronger than in previous shows. Instead of spending most of the night at the piano, she stood at the center-stage mic and forcefully sang most of the set list there, her facial expressions and physical movements (even the fidgeting) giving her words even more emotional weight. And most important, never once did she seem like she might go off the rails. In fact, she was clearly in a great mood. After performing the spare “I Know” with little-to-no chatter disruption, she beamed and said, “I can’t believe you’re that polite in Las Vegas! You get to go extra crazy after the show!” Anyone who has tried to watch a performer during a quiet, narrative-rich song in this city knows exactly what she’s taking about.
These days, Apple speaks like an excitable child, barely getting the words out in coherent fashion. This, despite her hyper-articulate, flubless singing. Though Apple played for an encore-free 85 minutes, it felt like a full set, given that her performance skills allowed listeners to delve so deeply into — and revel in — each of the 17 stories she told that night. “Fuckin’ go, ’cause I’ve done what I could for you,” she sang, punctuated wonderfully, during “Get Gone,” in that song’s sudden, emotional-release moment. In “I Know,” she snarked matter-of-factly through gritted teeth, “Baby, I can’t help you out while she’s still around.” Conversely, sweetness and confidence abounded during “Extraordinary Machine,” especially when she owned the song’s title.
Apple’s projection of the lyrics was so perfectly matched to the mood of their respective songs — and her voice so dynamic — she ended up giving us a jazz singer leading a pop concert that was disguised as musical theater.
Silversun Pickups, School of Seven Bells, Atlas Genius
Sept. 14 at The Joint
A shame more folks didn’t visit the Joint on Sept. 14, because they missed a fantastic bill.
Modern rock favorites and show headliner Silversun Pickups took off from the first note and didn’t let up until its conclusion 90 minutes later. The band had it all: the energy, the precision, the ability to make four musicians sound like six, the confident spaces in between instrumental assaults and vocal segments, the unforced audience engagement, the album tracks that sounded like hits (“Mean Spirits”), the hits that sounded like they hadn’t been too overexposed (“Panic Switch,” “The Pit”). They’re always a good time live, mostly because their talent isn’t tainted by premeditation or pandering, and this show was no exception.
They also enjoyed themselves. So did the sparse crowd which, at times, lost its shit. I watched one dude offer his own drunken interpretive dance. A mosh pit (of sorts) broke out during closer “Well Thought Out Twinkles,” which looked a little silly, but it reflected the enthusiasm offstage.
Atlas Genius opened the affair with the sort of melodic, note-perfect indie rock that easily crosses over onto alternative rock radio and gets tiresome and/or boring after the 15th listening. But while still fresh and relatively new, it’s seductive, head-bobbing fare. And School of Seven Bells was totally enrapturing. The NYC band’s largely blissful dream pop felt like a massage between aural workouts, with just enough soothing atmospherics and kneading rhythms. It played for 45 minutes, and I could have used another 45. Or even just heard the same set again.