Anytime Fiona Apple plays live, it’s an event. It doesn’t happen that often and she’s grown into one of the most mesmerizing live performers in all of music.
Then to have her and Jon Brion‘s captivating set bookended by Hollywood producer/writer Judd Apatow going back to his stand-up roots, Saturday Night Live‘s Pete Davidson testing out his notes for the upcoming roast on Justin Bieber and a surprise standup set by Kevin Hart, you have the makings of an unforgettable night in Los Angeles on Friday (March 13).
And we didn’t even include the heckler making reference to fired Sony chief Amy Pascal during Apatow’s (which also included meeting President Obama and some ruthless Bill Cosby jokes: “I think Bill Cosby‘s hell should be getting f—ed by Bill Cosby every night,”), and being escorted from the tiny Largo at the Coronet theater.
This is the world of Judd Apatow and Friends, a semi-regular event he’s done for several months, where he recruits high-profile guests — from Adam Sandler and Zach Galifianakis to Ryan Adams and Jackson Browne — to join him onstage at L.A. club Largo to benefit different charities.
On Friday night, he gathered Apple and Brion, Davidson and Hart to raise funds for the Bogart Pediatric Cancer Foundation (after his blisteringly hilarious set focused largely on his family, Hart said onstage he had so much fun performing for the crowd that he’d donate $10,000 to the charity, capping what was already a great night with a feel-good story).
As Apatow delivered his opening monologue he asked, “How many people are here to see Fiona Apple?” When he got the expected frenzied response he chuckled, “Very Fiona Apple crowd here tonight.”
He later brought the pair onstage, introducing them as two of his friends. The two close friends and frequent musical collaborators opened the set with Brion on guitar and both of them stomping their feet in rhythmic unison as Apple delivered the opening number.
One of the many joys of seeing them together and in this setting is the relaxed looseness of the show. Following opener, Apple commented on the fact they didn’t make a set list and were looking for ideas. Someone from the audience then shouted “Paper Bag.” It was a suggestion Apple wasn’t feeling, causing her to quip to Brion, “Let’s get as far away from what we’re doing as possible.” His solution? To have her sing what she sings in the shower, which turned out to be George Gershwin‘s “My Cousin From Milwaukee.” As Brion banged away on a hand-held drum, Apple delivered a superb rendition of the standard.
There are rumors Apple is working on a new album, but after watching the seven-song set Friday night, we hope that one day she makes the jazzy standards collection we are sure would be a Grammy-winning smash. One only needed see her closing song Friday night, where she and Brion were joined on piano by Dave Palmer for her captivating and gorgeously simple version of the Cy Coleman song made famous by Frank Sinatra and covered by Apple on record in 2009, “Why Try to Change Me Now?”
Besides her extraordinary voice, Apple’s greatest gifts as a live performer are her facial expressions and depth of conviction. When she sings every song is something the audience feels with her, whether it was the Patti Smith-esque snarl of “Fast As I Can” or the hauntingly exquisite pain as she sang Brion’s “Trouble,” which she said after was the first time she performed one of his songs. She dazzled on the title track of Extraordinary Machine or the superb rendition of “Mean To Me,” a song she dedicated to her mother on her birthday because her mom used to sing at auditions.
Proving once again she is a true artist, Apple and Brion, in seven songs, conveyed more emotions and more honesty than we see in an entire weekend festival these days.