Fiona Apple: Live in Chicago, Lincoln Hall, 3/19/12

I think it safe to say that the extraordinary Fiona Apple is one of the all-time favorite artists of every single writer on the Muruch staff. This is particularly true of our Mid-West reviewer/photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper, who was fortunate enough to attend Fiona Apple’s live performance on March 19th at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall. You can read Coble’s review and view her photographs from the concert below…

The stage at Lincoln Hall was tiny and intimate, crowded with a baby grand piano, a drum kit and a full accompanying band. The piano was lovingly draped with gorgeous, fringed fabric and several candles. To the right, Fiona greeted the crowd with only a warm smile before beginning her performance. There was just enough floor space to allow her signature expressive physical performance, her body rolling and convulsing through “Fast As You Can.”

The 21+ crowd was elated, cheering Fiona loudly between the first few songs with occasional shouts of “Welcome back!” and “We missed you!” All the while, they collectively sang along with well-loved songs from her first three albums. She spent time at the piano as well as standing at the mic, her eyes closed as she passionately belted out every word. She only opening them when the lights were dim, her shyness still evident. Any stage banter was unnecessary.

The crowd settled after the first few songs of the set, the packed room going completely silent to allow each of the lyrics to be heard. To accompany the new tune, “Anything We Want,” Fiona played a piece of old rebar or scrap metal with what appeared to be a long nail to create a sound like a kitchen sink. A few of the more charming lyrics from the song include this verse:

Let’s pretend we’re 8 years old playing hookey
I’ll draw on the walls and you can play UFC Rookie
Then we’ll grow up, take our clothes off
and you’ll remind me that I wanted you to kiss me
When we find some time alone
and then we can do anything we want

These written lyrics really do not do justice to the whimsy of the upbeat tune or the joy she obviously felt performing it.

Another new song, “Valentine,” started with minimal instrumentals, letting her voice and the lyrics stand alone until after the second verse:

A fugitive too dull to flee
I’m amorous but out of reach
A still-life drawing of peach.

The resonating chorus, “I root for you, I love you, you you you” is followed with the familiar, haunting chord progressions that have grown to be characteristic of her work.

The other new song, “Every Single Night,” is another lighter melody paired with relatable, anxious thoughts:

Every single night’s alright,
Every single night’s a fight
and every single fight’s alright with my brain
I just want to feel everything

I’m made of parts of all that’s around me
That’s why the devil can’t get around me

The now peaceful audience marveled between songs, and evoked a flattered smile from Fiona with singular calls of “I love you!” and “How are you real?”

Fiona still wears each song like a second skin, letting her emotions be completely exposed; slipping easily between the youthful angst and anger of betrayal to lighter or more mature selections. She growled and gritted out “Sleep to Dream” in one of her most impassioned performances, reliving the anger and the frustration with every inch of her petite form. Later in the song, she disappeared behind the piano, bent over at the middle, seemingly hiding through the instrumental portion. On the contrary, “Extraordinary Machine” elicited a practically bubbly performance with playful twists of waist and shoulders and a swinging foot. She bleated and howled older songs like “Carrion” with such volume and raw emotion, they became fresh and new.

She struggled just slightly in her higher range, and her voice was more rough in parts as she finished with “Criminal.” She slowly, gently removed her monitor and sat it on the piano. It’s possible that the only words spoken to the crowd were those to genuinely thank them for a wonderful evening before she walked off stage, not to return. The common wish among the crowd was for a longer set, but it’s evident that Fiona’s performances are on her terms. She spoke only when necessary, and, once she felt her voice start to strain, ended the set without the exercise of an encore.

Her return to the stage was anything but disappointing. Fiona Apple delivered a recharged, inspiring and musically enticing performance. Her next characteristically long-titled release cannot come soon enough, but The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do is tentatively scheduled to hit stores sometime in June.

Buy Fiona Music @ Amazon

Fiona Apple Official Site

Empires: Live at Lincoln Hall

Muruch’s Mid-West reviewer/photographer Jen “Coble” Hopper followed Empires to Lincoln Hall last Saturday night and took more great shots than could fit in this post. Her fantastic photographs and concert review are below…

Saturday night’s show was a flurry of energy, not just from the band, but from the enthusiastic crowd that showed up to support Chicago natives, Empires.

Among well-loved favorites, the crowd was treated to an impressive new tune from their upcoming album. The band, and especially Sean Van Vleet, were excited and gracious to be performing for the crowd that filled Lincoln Hall.

Highlights included the opener “Bang,” “Voodooized,” the thundering “Hello Lover” and acoustic favorite “Hayley” (a tune originally heard as part of the 3-song samplers distributed at the band’s very first shows some 3 years ago now), to which the crowd erupted in song.

All the members rocked the hardest with “I Want Blood,” making it evident which song is the band’s collective favorite to play.

The encore, “Spit The Dark,” already a dynamic arrangement, truly came alive as the sound exploded in Lincoln Hall’s excellent acoustics.

Each Empires performance continues to be greater than the last! If you haven’t given a listen to their first album, Howl, it and their most recent release, Bang, are both available at Empires’ official site.

While seasoned fans await the new album due later this year, a 7″ vinyl with a new song, “Darko,” is also available at Empires’ official site.

Live Review: The Like and The Futureheads in Chicago

Freelancer Jen “Coble” Hopper was among the crowd at Lincoln Hall in Chicago on June 12th for live performances by all-female pop-rock quartet The Like and post-punk band The Futureheads. Coble’s review and photographs of the gig follow…

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

This past Saturday, I caught The Like on the last date of their tour with headliners The Futureheads.

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Unfortunately, the Chicago crowd did not arrive ready to dance to The Like’s upbeat, 60’s-inspired pop despite its perfectly harmonious delivery.

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Singer Z Berg was all smiles and despite laryngitis a few dates ago, her voice was in top form for the night as the band delivered a nearly non-stop set.

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Their 60’s dance party was so devoid of stage banter that it only paused to share with us that that most of their tunes were off their new album Release Me – out this week!

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

This all-girl foursome delivers a solid, rocking set and deserves more attention.

The Like – Fair Game (mp3)*

*click for download page, you must submit email address to access mp3

Buy The Like @ Amazon

The Like Official Site
The Like MySpace

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Incidentally, high-energy headliner The Futurehead’s extra-long set did not seem to garner much more of a reaction from the disappointing Chicago crowd, who offered up cheers and some World Cup discussion but little more.

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Copyright Jen Hopper 2010

Buy The Futureheads @ Amazon

The Futureheads Official Site
The Futureheads MySpace

Note: If you like Coble’s review, you can leave a comment below. Her online portfolio is on Flickr.