|Fiona Apple performs on the opening night of a tour at the Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon, in this file photo. (REUTERS/Richard Clement/Files)
TORONTO - After 90 minutes Wednesday evening at Toronto's Sound Academy, Fiona Apple mustered a mere “thank you” and “this is the encore.”
Yet the lack of interaction with the attentive audience was made up for by a performance that was totally eye and ear catching.
The singer, who gained notoriety as a teen with her 1996 debut album Tidal, was a wave of different emotions throughout her 17-song set, rarely standing still but seemingly always in control of songs which are equal parts soul, jazz and pop.
Part of the allure with Apple also lies in the unpredictability of her shows despite a set that has remained rather rigid throughout this tour behind The Idler Wheel.... From her interpretive dancing during the ballsy, strutting Sleep To Dream to the quirkier, Tom Waits-ish Extraordinary Machine, the waif-like artist never fell off the rails.
If there was one lone drawback it might have been when she pushed her voice to its limits, occasionally moving from a hushed Norah Jones or PJ Harvey-like tone to a far raspier delivery which could've spelled disaster. This was almost the case on Shadowboxer before she reined things in.
Thankfully, Apple kept it together by using her new album as a complement to the set, not overloading the gig with new material. After the tempo-changing Fast As You Can with its strobe lighting got the crowd's attention, Apple took a swig of water and went straight into the next song, this time the bluesy, jazz-influenced On The Bound.
Moving occasionally to her piano on the right hand side of the stage, the singer fed off her tight but adventurous five-piece supporting cast including a drummer and percussionist. This was particularly true on Paper Bag and the moody, groove-riddled Get Gone, two of five numbers she performed from 1999's When The Pawn...
When she didn't push the issue or her pipes to their peak, Apple was more than aurally appealing. Anything We Want was solid as was the gorgeous I Know, the latter a wistful ballad backed by a sweet, sparse arrangement which earned a loud ovation.
Given that Apple isn't exactly a road warrior in terms of regular touring, Apple managed to mix all four albums together fairly well. By the time she threw herself into the warped lullaby feel of Every Single Night, she could do no wrong. Even dropping down or crouching at the conclusion of some tunes was met with great applause.
Following Not About Love which she belted out portions to, the 34-year-old singer concluded the 16-song main set with the combination of a country-hued Carrion and the almost radio-friendly Criminal.
By this time Apple and crew were caked in sweat, so all decided against the usual leave-then-return encore schtick. An eclectic rendition of the late Conway Twitty's It's Only Make Believe ended a very real, dazzling gig.
Fast As You Can
On The Bound
Anything We Want
Sleep To Dream
Tymps (The Sick In The Head Song)
Every Single Night
Not About Love
It's Only Make Believe (Conway Twitty)