I just spent a few hours sitting not ten feet away from a tired-looking Fiona Apple. I was close enough to see her ham-fisted but efficient self-taught piano playing in all its glory, along with the bulging veins that line that back of her hands when she slams down each chord. I watched her struggle through the first couple of songs, her voice sounding like it was being ripped to shreds, in a beautiful sounding but unforgiving Greek Theater. She broke into one of her most demanding songs, “Shadowboxer”, with all the intention in the world, but by the end of it she was down to nothing but screaming. As you read this, take note that there are moments when I worship this woman.

The third song saw her getting up from the piano and up to the mike for “Limp” and it was better. When the bridge came, she curled up behind the piano, out of view, while the band displayed their collective chops, finally returning for an angry outro.

Then came “Sleep To Dream”, a favorite of mine, perfectly executed. Angry but contained. Then, a song I never thought I’d get to see her perform live, “The Way Things Are”; by the end of it, I remembered why I was there. When Fiona Apple hits the stage, she is like a preacher on fast forward; her arms flail in reproach of unseen demons and her body shakes with self-reproach and frustration. I may be a fool, but I believe her. Every song she sings, every time she sings it: it means something to her. For that, she earns my price of admission.

Before “Tymps (The Sick in the Head song)”, she launched into the following diatribe, and I paraphrase:

“I don’t eat meat but if I did, when I went out hunting, after I killed what I was hunting, I’d bring it home for a few days just to make sure it was dead. Just to be sure, because apparently I don’t know when something is dead!”

Then she gave the crowd a dark look with those guilty eyes and launched into a frenetic but successful performance. (Those that are familiar with both the song and her life will tangentially understand what she meant. Maybe… she is a little cuckoo.)

Singer/songwriter David Garza joined her onstage to lend a haunting Spanish guitar track to “Sullen Girl”, something “we’ve never done in public before” and the best song of the night. The last third of the show was great, with an excellent band hitting their stride (of special note is the meticulous drummer, who’s name always slips my mind). It isn’t hard to put on a great show with such great material; just don’t make us wait another six years to see the more of it, Ms. Apple.

I will be attending tomorrow night’s concert in Santa Barbara and hope to see an even better show. Finger’s crossed!