NEW YORK — Last night Fiona Apple played an album release show 18 floors higher than New York's dozens of rock clubs. “Ah, the Boom Boom Room,” Apple said, gripping the microphone with a shocking intensity. “What are you all talking about tonight at the Boom Boom Room? I hear they have the best conversations at the Boom Boom Room. So go ahead. Fuck it. Talk.”
Around her, in that oft-chosen site of fashion after-parties and film premieres, the giant windows peered into the canopy above the Meatpacking District. It was not the obvious choice of venue for Apple on the eve of a release of her new album, “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do.” Apple isn’t exactly the outgoing socialite. And, for those who have heard the new album, it's as unadorned as anything the singer/songwriter has ever done: a sequence of breakup songs both caustic and cathartic, her piano buffered by little more than the muddled percussion in the background. Meanwhile, the bar atop the Standard Hotel is loud and jam-packed and anything but private.
Yet it soon became clear that this setting, like all settings, was Fiona's to own. With a full band backing her, she pounded the piano in a black tanktop, flayed by a magenta scarf, its ends flying up next to her purple eye shadow and the purple bags beneath her eyes. Then she played “Fast As You Can.” Fast.
“I wanna stop the show,” Apple said after the first song. “I wanna stop the show and get binoculars, and I wanna look out all the windows, look at what's outside.” Quite different from the norm here, where everyone gets suddenly all nearsighted — the views are great, sure, but are there any movie stars around? (A few Standard stalwarts did show up, such as the designers Richard Chai and Philip Lim.)
All eyes, however, were focused on Fiona, her performance getting more physically expressive as she moved to her first hit, “Criminal.” Her arms shot up and swung into wild angles, veins popped out of her neck, and the words came straight from her cheekbones and collarbones. She winded down her set with “Anything We Want,” a highlight from her new album where, at the climax, she asks someone to kiss her “when we find some time alone.”
After the set the crowd milled around, buying drinks and talking, and Fiona Apple was nowhere to be found.