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  • Fiona Apple & Blake Mills @ Newmark Theatre, Portland 10/3/2013
Tags: / Credit: Colin McLaughlin

The balance of the evening was already a delicate one. The restraint of the audience at the Newmark Theater as they watched the manic glee of Fiona Apple in performance mode was palpable.

Yes, they laughed at her strange stage banter (after one particularly sexy duet with tour mate Blake Mills, she exclaimed, “See, Christians? You can still have a good time and keep your virginity without butt sex.”), cheered as she bent her body into all manner of uncomfortable looking shapes, and shouted the occasional word of encouragement and love. But they otherwise they kept mum out of respect or a simple fear that they could frighten the fragile 36-year-old away at any moment.

Then someone had to go and upend everything.

After close to 90 minutes of Apple and Mills trading off songs and, as they put it, “working shit out,” someone in the first balcony yelled out, “Fiona! Get healthy! We want to see you in 10 years!”

Apple, understandably, looked aghast, then hurt, then furious. She unleashed a torrent of vitriol at the unseen member of the peanut gallery. “I am healthy! Who the fuck do you think you are? I want you to get the fuck out of here. I want the house lights on so I watch you leave!”

That might have been the end of it — the house lights did come on, and the shouter did eventually depart — but the anonymous commenter decided to get one last shot in: “I saw you 20 years ago and you were beautiful!”

There was no coming back from that. Apple insisted she was done, spat her frustration into the microphone, and fought back tears. She pulled it together enough to perform an understandably intense version of “Waltz (Better Than Fine)” that she sang through sobs. But the wellspring of feelings burst forth again. She raged, empathized, apologized, and departed. Show over.

One point that Apple made as she attempted to maintain control was that the person who lit the fuse ostensibly meant well. And truth be told, the voice wasn’t alone in her feelings. I, too, worried over Apple’s health when she first appeared. She looked gaunt and wild-eyed. Between songs, she would walk around uncertainly, sometimes confused. Then she would make odd moves like bending backwards over her piano bench or flopping dramatically on the stage.

But once she settled behind a microphone and got swept away by Mills’ stellar guitar work, my worry melted away. Apple was in great voice throughout, stirring up the deep emotional core of songs like “Every Single Night,” “Left Alone,” and Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.” And it was obvious that she was delighting in presenting, as Mills put it, “familiar songs in an unfamiliar way.”

Backed by bassist Sebastian Steinberg and drummer Amy Wood, she and Mills added some notes of fury to “Regret,” and turned “Anything We Want” into a minimalist epic. Apple even seemed to relish in taking a supporting role as well, backing up Mills’ originals on piano or pounding on a field drum with her fist.

Apple looked happiest though when she could simply stand back and watch Mills play. Can’t say as I blame her on that front. The 27-year-old was a sight to behold, fluidly handling both lead and rhythm parts (occasionally at the same time) while also moving all over the fretboard to add some deliciously indelicate noise into the mix.

It’s a shame then that the show is going to forever be colored by its last awful 10 minutes. And considering that the Portland date was the first of a fall tour with Mills and company, there’s a slight concern that the experience will send Apple into hiding for a while. Or, at the very least, that this show will inspire her to skip Stumptown on her next round of promotional dates. Hopefully, the words she will remember most are the ones coming from members of the audience that urged her to not let one bastard get her down.

Comments (64)
  1. god I’m glad I’m not a woman in music. come on fellas

    • Devil’s advocate, but the article never actually says whether the person who “heckled” Fiona was a male or female, and from my experience in attending a Fiona show, the ratio of males to females was very, very slim.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • This review confirms that the person yelling at Fiona was in fact — A WOMAN: http://www.oregonlive.com/music/index.ssf/2013/10/fiona_apple_newmark_concert.html

        • What’s rude is that the tweet about this article called the heckler a “concerned fan,” but like your initial inclination (which I’m sure many other people had as well) about who did the shouting, if it was in fact a male, there’d be a sh-tstorm going on about men objectifying women on stage, holding them to certain standards of attractiveness, and so on. A male has the same capacity to be just as much of a “concerned fan” as the opposite sex, but it’s interesting how since it’s a woman, the article dances around pointing that detail out.

          • so a woman judging another woman based on her appearance changes the game of objectifying women?

          • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • the woman in the audience took her to task based on her appearance. if she wants to eat one and a half meals a day, exercise three hours a day and go without makeup, that’s nobody’s business but the stagehands once she collapses onstage. that fan was out of line and deserved to be kicked out.

            and you somehow think that just because she’s a musician putting on a show for 90 minutes qualifies her as impenetrable to the public arena? that anyone can just yell anything negative at her? what’s wrong with that woman privately telling fiona all of that while she’s signing autographs after the show instead of humiliating her in front of a couple hundred people? because in addition to the music she plays live, her appearance and her feelings are up for grabs as well? for shame, dude.

          • I wouldn’t care if the heckler was male or female — they meant well, failed to grasp how they were going to sound and really screwed up.

            It’s a Fiona Apple concert, FFS — do you really think anyone who enjoys her music makes assumptions about the sexual orientation of other attendees?

        • Looks like you’re off the case detective.

      • i’m not sure it really matters either way. shaming anyone — male/female, famous/unfamous — based on their appearance is a horrible thing to do, regardless of the heckler’s gender.

        • Correct

        • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • yeah this is pretty much where the issue lies. fuck gender for a moment, let’s focus on this human being and what was yelled out. i’m going to put my detective’s hat on (since everyone else is doing it) and assume that since this is a fan of 20 years, this person must be relatively familiar with fiona’s on stage persona and her turbulent history with hecklers. i mean, her last incident was well-documented on pretty major news sites, so i’d be willing to assume that this person knows that yelling out during an intimate show about the state of fiona’s health/her looks is extremely troll-esque and straight up going to cause some controversy. plus, if you’re really concerned, send her a personal email or whatever. a concert is not an appropriate venue to be just shouting out your concerns, however genuine they are (or maybe it is, i’m looking at you big daddy joshua sanders). not to mention, if you’re a well-know self conscious person, you’re not going to want to draw a shitload attention to your looks.

      • I was at the show. The person who made that comment was a woman (and an idiot). What this article doesn’t say, is that when Fiona was trying to get herself together, a man yelled out and said, “Good job, you has been!” It was extremely heartbreaking.

    • I was there. It was a woman. And it seemed like she was a feminist and interested in the body image thing. Not any concern over drugs or unusual behaviors. The 20 years ago comment seemed meant as positive, although very off the mark.

      • Really? How is telling someone they “used to be beautiful” a *positive* comment. That was purely hateful and it is ridiculous that the “fan” is hiding behind the guise of being helpful and concerned. If they were truly helpful they would not have heckled her. I hope the guilty party and all the rest of the nasty comment posters realize that words hurt, as recent history is rife with people who committed suicide even as a result of online bullying and slander.

  2. Yeah, having a total breakdown when someone shouts/heckles you with something relatively benign, is not the sign of a healthy human being.

  3. For people saying that men usually yell stuff, I saw a drunk woman in Iowa City blathering at Jeff Tweedy
    it went like this:
    beer bottles (being disposed of by staff at offstage bar) clank during stage banter
    Tweedy without missing a beat asks “is that you Glenn”? referring to Wilco’s drummer
    crowd laughs
    drunk woman yells something at tweedy
    Tweedy says I was making a joke that that was Glenn
    drunk says “I know Glenn”
    Tweedy, now irritated says “oh yeah, tell me who Glenn is”
    Drunk woman gets pissed says she’s the daughter of the mayor of cedar rapids
    Tweedy says he feels sorry for her and launches into “so much wine” by The Handsome family
    drunk woman stumbles out during song

    the moral being that not just men are disruptive

    also Fiona is obviously sick
    but a concert is not the place to address that

  4. Prohibition saps the beauty out of ma and pa figures, indemnifying natural beauty, while encouraging those accessible traits for years to come.

  5. Fully expected the commenter was a woman. Well-intentioned and completely wrong. I saw Fiona last year and while I had the same thought about how unhealthy she looked, no thought in my head said “Yell at her about it!” She took full command of the stage, the piano, the microphone, the band, and simply had at it. Her health set aside (which we must do, unfortunately), her skills are far from lacking.

    • I, too, saw Fiona last year. While her appearance is a little too thin for my taste, it’s really none of my business how she conducts her own health. Us girls can’t get a break: we are either too damn fat or too damn skinny. It’s sad to see a society that can’t look past the appearance of an artist (male or female) that has an incredible amount of talent.
      As far as Fiona’s stage antics, I don’t think it wouldn’t be a Fiona show if she just didn’t go a little nuts on stage.
      I think Fiona is incredibly sexy based on her shear damn talent. She just has one of those voices that would make love to you one minute and then kill you the next. Her song writing is superb and I think she is the female version of Jeff Buckley.
      Fiona, I love the shit out of you. I did when you first came out and I still do now. You are crazy, beautiful, and insanely talented. Never stop.

    • NOT “well intentioned” when you tell someone they “used to be beautiful”. That is purely hateful and the fact that this “fan” is hiding behind the guise of “helpful” concern is a load of BS. There is No excuse for the fan’s comments. I hope people can be a lot more compassionate and realize that hurtful comments are damaging, sometimes even leading to suicide. Fiona admitted to giving her computer away last year due to all the hate.

  6. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Both parties are to blame. As fans and consumers of art, people have a tendency of getting personally invested into their favorite musician / writer / whatever’s work and lives to the point where they get too comfortable in their relationship with them and then this happens. This is a great example of where it went to the point in which the person thought they could directly talk directly to that artist as if it were a one on one conversation (because listening to music to many people feels like it’s just them and the artist in their own world) with their fandom being enough to justify it.

      • Whoops, forgot to finish my thought — …And to Fiona, it must be a freakish, angering feeling to have a stranger think she knows what you do with your life day in and day out tell you how to live yours.

        • i know i already mentioned this above, but if this was a genuine fan that feels that sort of connection to the artist, then the person would have known that a music venue in front of hundreds of people is the most damaging place to yell out any “concerns” to fiona

  7. I was there, it was a woman, but a guy also yelled out something about her being “a has been.” To steal someone else’s thought, it was like a comment section come to life. Also, Fiona was justified.

  8. if youre worried she’ll be frightened away from the rest of the tour, maaaaaaaybe don’t put her on blast with this post? or at least disable the comments section.

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      • Immersing oneself in a performance and pulling back when heckled isn’t ego. She’s not playing Barclays — she asked if people wanted to buy tickets to a theatre show to hear her sing. They did. She made herself vulnerable and unfortunately a couple of them violated all reasonable expectations.

        Honestly, a few mob beatings from fellow audience members in these situations and the ensuing news coverage would do wonders.

        • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • What makes you think she spends any time at all reading Stereogum or concerning herself with what goes on in the comments sections of posts here?

      I think post opens up space for a worthwhile conversation about body image, body shaming, artist/fan boundaries, etc.

      • Well, last year Fiona went onstage and BEGGED TMZ et al to lay off the horrible comments. She admitted that she felt compelled to give away her computer because of all the hateful horrible comments written about her online. So I disagree. She is human and the things written about her hurt. Unless someone has personally witnessed her using drugs they are guilty of slander and online bullying….Fiona has only admitted to using pot and hash, yet so many go online and accuse her of being a heroin addict, meth head, coke whore ,etc. Her issues are her business. Come on folks have some F’ing compassion! Online bullying is damaging and has even led many to suicide. Think before you type.

  9. You don’t yell that shit at a show. What an asshole.

  10. I was at the show last night. As others have noted, it was a woman who yelled out the offending comment. Still, I think it IS somewhat a gender issue, not because of the gender of the person who yelled it, but because if the PERFORMER had been male, I doubt anyone would think to question his appearance in that way. People seem to be way more focused on appearance and body weight when the performer is female. Nothing about Fiona’s appearance that was detracting from her ability to do her JOB, which is singing and performing. As Fiona herself said after the “you were beautiful 20 years ago” comment, “Why the fuck is it my job to be ‘beautiful’ anyway?” Exactly.

    Sexism aside, I think the “concerned” heckler was way out of line. It doesn’t matter if she was right or not about Fiona’s health. In no way is it appropriate or constructive to yell out “advice” of a very personal nature in a public forum. Just wrong on every level.

    • I’d like this comment 20 times over if I could. Thank you for writing it.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  11. There is no defending this “heckler”—and I’m basing this judgment off of basic human etiquette. It can be fun to pretend that sometimes the obvious guilty party isn’t at fault, due to the sugary notion that “sometimes people (re: fans) say asinine things out of genuine concern.” And yeah, maybe sometimes they do. But voicing these things at the performer’s FUCKING SHOW makes you void of common sense.

    My money is on the fact that it wasn’t genuine concern, and this woman—like many people who blurt things veiled as “worry”—just wanted her megaphone for 5 seconds.

    And as for Fiona’s reaction, her emotional response is her emotional response. It clearly inhabits her music, and I personally love her for that. Maybe she’s mentally frail, and personally, I would’ve just thrown up a finger and continued on with the set, but people get too wound up in this bullshit. The audience member was being a boisterous idiot that—more than likely—had an alcoholic catalyst, and Fiona’s response is what it is.

    Let it be done.

  12. I too was at the show:
    I am also someone who has loved Fiona’s music for 16 years and experimented with crystal meth and cocaine. Fiona was totally twacked out at the show, her performance was shocking and heart wrenching to watch. Can you imagine watching a cultural icon slowly die in front of your eyes, you pretend not to notice, applauding with the crowd as a near corpse belts out tormented melodies in that perfect voice? The voice is all that is left.

    The show was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. Obviously, her life is her choice, and I applaud her for sticking up for herself. But let’s be honest, there isn’t much of her left to stand up for. She’s a shell. Blake even joked of her demise on stage. We can only see her off on her terms. The comment from the audience was felt by everyone in the room. My date and I left when I decided that the level of musicianship was sub-par, and the only real reason to stay was to witness the spectacle. Leaving the theater, we walked past shell-shocked audience members and a couple sobbing on the street. A part of me died that evening.

    • She has always been zany and a little nuts. She’s a vegan and has always been thin and the worst thing we know she’s been caught with is hash. I empathize with you, but I’m less concerned than you are about her overall health. I’m more concerned that she’ll go into hiding due to mental strain.

    • I don’t want to say you’re exaggerating, because obviously you’re a real fan and those were your impressions. But I do feel like my experience of the show was quite different from yours. Maybe it’s because I was up in the balcony and couldn’t see Fiona as clearly as someone who was up front, but until the “meltdown” caused by the obnoxious fan, I thought the show was great. Yes, she was acting a little strange, but she kind of always does. I didn’t think the musicianship was sub-par. And nobody around me in the crowd was “shell shocked” by her appearance or musicianship — everyone was enjoying it and enthusiastically applauding. The only thing that made most of us cringe with discomfort was what happened when some idiot decided to derail the show.

  13. Damn that’s some sorry behavior for someone who considers herself a fan. Brilliant artists don’t need the intense scruples of the public at all, DEFINITELY at their own performance! Way to go, verbal diarrhea at it’s most tasteless! Hopefully she can shake that non-sense off for the tour.

  14. I was also there last night and this is the 4th show of hers I have been to since I was 14 years old. Last year, when she came to the Schnitz, she came on 20-30 minutes late and the first thing she said when she got to the mic was, “sorry, I had to find a tampon ’cause I just started my period”. She proceeded to dance weird and make similar off the wall comments through-out the show last year, just like she did last night.

    The woman who was “expressing concern” simply chose a terrible time to do so. It was incredibly inconsiderate of her to do when everyone was there to see Fiona perform. It was also probably very embarrassing for Fiona to have someone interrupting her show to make such a comment. I don’t blame Fiona for turning on the house lights to kick her out and saying the things that she was saying afterwards (although some of it was hard to understand.) After the explosion of comments, It was terribly sad to watch her perform what is supposed to be an uplifting song, while crying.

    To be honest, she doesn’t look super healthy right now compared to all the times I have seen her in the past, but who am I or any of us to judge her on the way she looks?!? Everyone deserves to live life how they choose and with common respect no matter what. Plus, if she does have any kind of drug problem, telling her you’re concerned publicly like that would probably just exacerbate the issue.

    If you want to tell an Artist or any one else you idolize that you are concerned about them, write them a fucking letter. Shame on those who can’t seem to keep their mouths shut for the greater good. I am really hoping that she will actually return to Portland to perform and that bitch didn’t ruin it for all of us die hard Fiona fans.

    • Karly- you are right on. I have seen Fiona live many times, including on her debut tour for Shadowboxer, A lot of Fiona’s wildness on stage is like a part of her own self therapy as an artist. Fiona looks great. And- yelling things to an artist on stage is NOT O.K., unless it is supportive of the artist- and then, only between songs. Seeing an artist perform on stage is a privilege (when the show is good), and any one that distracts from the performance in a big way- especially true for slower and softer music like Fiona Apple- should be booted from the show and not allowed to further bother the artist and ruin it for the rest of the fans- who pay good money and often make a lot of sacrifice to be there. http://www.BruceEdwin.com

  15. A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy at its best:

    Person wants to see Fiona Apple in 20 years.
    Fan blurts out their desire which insults and upsets Fiona Apple so that she ends the show and other fans fear she will now skip their city on her future tours.

    Sinead O’Connor’s recent statements regarding attacking mentally unstable people comes to mind. Yes, it’s a double standard, but there’s something to be said about not fueling the fire.

    On the other hand, I kind of wished there was something we could yell that actually would get Miley Cyrus to stop performing.

  16. “I saw you 20 years ago and you were beautiful”….. That would have made her 16. Ummm, yea most of us looked better 20 years ago.

  17. It’s worth saying: I was sitting front row / center at this concert. Paid $100 for my tickets and was SO excited to see her that we drove across state lines for the show. I thought the

    Fiona Apple looked so incredibly high the entire show – twitching and having private conversations with her self, smacking her head and rolling around on the floor. Why is no one reporting about the fact that Fiona Apple is clearly *not* healthy and the so called “heckler” spoke what was on many of our minds.

    This was not a case of body heckling. This wasn’t attacking a woman for being too skinny. This was very likely a woman who was terrified of what she saw in her favorite artist. It certainly voiced the thoughts I was having through the entire set.

    • Totally agree with your view of this very troubling performance. In the absence of the drama resulting from the “heckler” (i really don’t think it was heckling), Fiona’s behavior, mannerisms, random and strange ramblings between songs, all had me feeling as if i was watching a train wreck almost from the start of the show. Yes, i was there too. I agree completely that the woman who expressed her concerns for Fiona’s health should have kept her mouth shut, but I think the majority of the audience witnessing this event probably felt similar concerns. The apologists here disputing that this was a troubled performance either were not there or are living in fantasyland.

  18. When the writer said she was “flopping dramatically on the stage” I thought, what the hell, was she having a seizure? Then I read another article that put it in context. What actually happened was Fiona said “People come see me to see the crash,” and fell to the floor in a knowing pratfall.
    Is Stereo Gum hiring writers that have been fired from TMZ?

  19. My reaction is people at the show should keep their mouth shut, I don’t care what their feeling about the performer is. When people yell out it’s to hear their own voice and get attention from someone. Maybe that person was concerned about her… if so what a condescending comment making the assumption she’s unhealthy. If wanna communicate – send her a tweet, a note on FB but when I’m at a show I don’t want to hear you speak, I’m there to hear music.

  20. she should lay off the heroin already

  21. Saw the tour stop in Seattle last night. Pretty amazing.

    • That is great. Wish I could have been there! I was worried that the awful episode in Portland would have led her to say “F This tour!”.

  22. It clearly states the “heckler” was female! If you can’t handle someone elses opinions of you, maybe a life on the stage is not right for you Fiona!

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