Apple’s face and voice actually transforming with the meaning of each line, at a genuinely staggering level of emotional sensitivity — one line an accusatory grimace, the next a sudden open-eyed ecstasy, the next an anguished slump, the next a kind of bitter internal laugh. I am rhapsodizing a little here, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a room watching a singer do this quite so well, bending herself that far to the emotional nuance of every phrase. Some people I talked to found it hard to tell how much Apple was performing and how much she was really just letting herself be an exposed nerve on stage — and while there’s surely plenty of each happening, one important clue might be the fact that she was able to channel a similar intensity through songs written two decades ago as well as the new material. Maybe not with the exact same nervy, tremulous hush surrounding some of her new songs (an album’s planned for this summer) — the hits from the first phase of her career are a little too languorous and moany for that — but the same level of feeling. At the ends of several songs she seemed to blink and return to the room, as if pleasantly surprised to find the audience still there. Then a quick pause for some tea, or throat spray, or to inform us that her hair was held up by “the top band of some baby sweatpants I found in the garbage and washed.” (I have so many questions about this.)
. Excerpted from his fantastic Vulture post on Fiona Apple’s soon to be legendary SXSW performances.