Apologetic Fiona Apple, Frenetic Beck Take New Albums To Stage

Her set plagued by mic trouble, while he struts through rock and soul revue.

Fiona Apple and Beck took their acclaimed new albums to the stage over

the weekend in polar-opposite sets that reflected their differences in

personality as much as intheir approaches to music.

At WPLY-FM's Y100 FEASTival holiday show Friday in Philadelphia

(

TARGET="_top">click here for photo gallery), Beck laid down a

confident rock and soul revue, complete with splits and melodramatic

romance. The following night in Chicago, at WKQX-FM's Q101 Twisted 6

festival, Apple floundered through a 25-minute set that started with

microphone problems and included several apologies from the singer/pianist.

Introducing the soulful hit "Criminal" from her debut, Tidal (1996),

Apple declared herself "The girl who doesn't know how to speak in public

places."

Though she was difficult to hear in Allstate Arena, Apple's six-piece

band pulled off complex material such as "On the Bound," from her second

album, When the Pawn ..., with agility. The show was her first

since the album (whose full title is 90 words) was released last month.

Before even playing a note, she was booed by some in the crowd after

announcing she had microphone trouble. It was hard to tell whether the

audience was fed up with the equipment or the singer.

At times, Apple seemed to take refuge in furious dancing. During the new

single "Fast as You Can" (RealAudio

excerpt) — which adds hints of Stevie Wonder rhythm and

Beatles melody to her emotionally intense lyrics — Apple let loose

in double time, stomping her feet, flailing her arms and sending her long

brown hair skyward.

The set was sandwiched between performances by industrial rockers Filter

and comedic pop-punks Blink-182, whose sets were better received. Still,

Apple did receive some support. Pockets of fans shouted, "We love you!"

While the Windy City crowd was tough on Apple, the audience in Philly ate

from Beck's hand.

He warmed up the First Union Center with cuts from Odelay (1996),

as well as his first hit, "Loser." But it was during material from the

new Midnite Vultures that Beck let it all hang out, with '70s soul

swagger on full display.

In "Sexx Laws" he broke out the funky chicken. Later he capped off the

falsetto slow jam "Debra" (RealAudio

excerpt) with airborne splits. Hamming up the song's desperate

lyrics, he dropped to his knees and pounded his fists on the stage.

After a crowd-pleasing take on "Where It's At," DJ Swamp soloed on the

turntables, scratching out the bassline for Deep Purple's "Smoke on the

Water." Later, a three-piece brass section showed off synchronized dance

steps from atop what looked like a circus elephant's footstool during

"Devils Haircut."

Both Beck and Apple performed as parts of radio-sponsored holiday

festivals. Electronica artist Moby, Brit-pop stars Oasis and the

punk-influenced Foo Fighters played in Philadelphia and Chicago.

In Philadelphia, Moby and his band threw down a smirking rendition of Led

Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," while in Chicago, Blink-182 urged fans to

flick their Bics and sing "Silent Night" — without delivering a

punch line afterward.

Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl stepped into the Chicago crowd to croon

the ballad "Ain't It the Life" from his band's recently released third

album, There Is Nothing Left to Lose. It was a rare quiet moment

in an otherwise aggressive, rocking set.

"We saw four great bands," said Jeff Lawson, 18, of New York, who spent

much of the Philadelphia show in a crush of concert-goers near the

stage. "I don't know if it was worth it to get beat up in the front row,

but it was fun. It would have been nice to have longer sets, though."