About two weeks ago I was browsing the Largo website just seeing if there was anything special and wonderful coming up and my heart stopped when March 9th popped out and nearly popped me out of my chair. “Fiona Apple Benefit Show.”
And how do I not go to that? My long time favorite at the most wonderful place in all of Los Angeles. Jacta Alea Est. The die is cast. There was no turning back.

Silena and I left promptly at 6 (On my way out of the house my mom told us to have fun at
that “Applebee’s” show) and didn’t end up getting down to Largo until 7 (after I preformed what I’m going go ahead and call the best parallel parking job performed in all of L.A. last night, which puts me in the running for best parallel parking job worldwide). Doors weren’t til 8:30, but we wanted to make sure that we got a good table, so with the iPod handy we watched two Arrested Developments and an Office episode and then sat around watching and waiting for Mike to come out and give what I have come to call “The Safety Talk.” As in, for your safety, “no cell phones, no cameras, no recording devices” and if you break the Laws of Largo you are greatly jeopardizing your safety. Because Mike will prank you. With a tire iron.

Anyway, once inside we got a great seat. It was a shared table, but one of the booths, which ended up being a million times more comfortable than the solid wood, ass-killer chairs, and it was much easier for me to squeeze Silena’s arm in excitement or be able to tell her stuff during the show. And we were directly facing the stage. I love that table.
Anyway, we sat down and both already knew exactly what we wanted. I ordered a glass of the cabernet and Silena got the chianti and a bruschetta appetizer to share. The wine came first and the cabernet was fantastic, followed by the bruschetta which was only three pieces of bread, but the massive amount of tomatoes and basil and olive oil surely made up for it. Our food came shortly after that, and if you’ve never been, one of the very best things about Largo is the food. I ordered the chicken parmesan and Silena got the solid gold oldie, the honey baked chicken. The chicken parmesan is no weak piece of chicken and breaded in what could only be described as the most blessed of bread crumbs. Topped with a delicious red sauce that has copious amounts of basil and even better amounts of garlic and then on top of that is a piece of mozzarella cheese. The cheese in chicken parmesan can often make or break the deal, but this one made it and is one for the books. Underneath this chicken parmeyum was a lush bed of pappardelle noodles, my new favorite noodle. It’s like a giant egg noodle that is easily an inch and a half wide and a foot long. At least. And topped with more of that fantastic sauce, you’re in for one of the best meals ever. Silena’s baked honey chicken was also quite delicious, as always. That dish is solid and knocks it out of the park every time.

Shortly after the food arriving, Fiona and Flanagan went up on stage to welcome everyone, and you knew it was going to be an excellent night when Fiona went on stage and was literally hopping around as she yelled, “TURN OFF THE MUSIC AND LISTEN UP!!!!!” And she flashes this smile that makes you feel like you’re watching a little kid on Christmas morning tear into presents. Lucky for us, Fiona knows how to put the smile away when it’s time to rip into your heart with some of her masterful lyrics. But more on that later. She and Flanagan explained that the $75 at the door was for her production manager, Gangi, who was diagnosed with cancer. He seems to mean the world to her and she kept telling us, “You’d love him! You’d love him!”
This is a really weird comparison, but for some reason during her banter, her mannerisms and speech is filled with an innocence and sweetness that is timeless and almost unrecognizable today. The best way I can describe it is that it reminds me of Dorothy Gale. As in The Wizard of Oz. I know. That’s weird, but it’s really the best way I can think of to describe it.

The opening act was that Bunny from the DVD portion of the EM DualDisc. (“Oh, Rabbit why’d you do it? What’d you do that for”) It’s like this Aphex Twin/Boards of Canada thing. Kind of weird, but different and cool. And just watching her jump up and down with excitement as she was announcing him made it totally worth it. Fiona was happy last night and it was definitely contagious.

Then when he was done out comes Fiona with her arsenal of man, Mike Elizondo, Dave Palmer and a gentleman whose name ALWAYS escapes me. Palmer on piano, Elizondo on stand-up bass and the other was on the electronic keyboards. No one on percussion, which is key, because think about how many of Fiona’s songs have some weird percussion driving in the background. I didn’t even really notice until half way into the set that there wasn’t percussion, but once I did, everything sounded so different.
She opened with perhaps the best rendition of “I Know” that I’ve ever heard. She snaps into this separate orbit than the rest of us and you can’t help but sit and admire (The belting of “Baby, I can’t help you out, while she is still around” was astounding. And it was only the first song of the evening). And the ever crafty Fiona ended “I Know” and called out sweet Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek fame to play violin on an adorable version of “Paper Bag.” Sara left the stage after the song and she did “Slow Like Honey” which was both surprising and wonderful. (The last time she pushes out, “Slow like honey, heavy with mood,” was absolutely chilling). Following that was a cover of “When I Get Low, I Get High,” which was both charming and though it’s a familiar tune, spiked with that Fiona brand of kick that we all love. She covered “Blue Skies,” “Cry Me A River,” and “All Alone” in a string of tribute to where she gets so much of her inspiration and style. And she can do it all.

“Sullen Girl” was next up and it was as, well, sullen and haunting as it was beautiful and glistening. After that the band left the stage and she called upon The Power of The Watkins, both Sean and Sara this time. And if you thought you loved “Oh Well” then… you should have heard it being danced around by Sara’s violin and Sean’s acoustic guitar. The violin weaved through Fiona’s voice and added a depth to that song that I hadn’t imagined possible.

The band came back on stage and there was a massive orgy of musical genius on stage as they did “Waltz,” “Knoxville Girl,” “Extraordinary Machine,” (which was beyond extraordinary) in every single way. Then Sara and Sean left the stage and the army of man did a version of “Fast As You Can” which can only be described as supernatural. So much of the backbone of that song is percussion and you’d think that it would drag just having the piano and bass, but it soared and with Fiona dancing her heart out at the helm, how could it have gone wrong?

There is no knowing Fiona until you’ve seen her live. Her lyrics pack punch, but when you see her physically packing the punch, it makes it all come together in a way that defies definition. It’s the way she dances around the stage. The way she sings with her hands. Pounds her fists into her legs just to let you know how much it hurts to feel what she’s feeling. It’s the way she stomps her feet into the ground as if to make herself heard and make herself seen. I promise you Fiona, we’re all looking. And I really think that’s the beauty of her as a performer. She makes you believe that she feels what she’s singing about. She’s incredibly expressive and her 90 minute set will take you to the highest highs and the lowest lows to the point where you want to rip out your heart and give it to her if it will make her feel any better. She’s passionate. She believes in what she does and for that I believe in her.

She’s an extraordinary machine.

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