Fiona Apple's show at the Schnitzer in 2012 was spellbinding. Not a single person blinked when she performed much of The Idler Wheel... with her trademark frenetic mastery. But 2013 rolled around, and the worm turned. And by "worm," I mean "Portland," and by "turned," I mean "into a huge braying asshole." At Fiona's intimate performance on October 3 at the fancy-schmancy Newmark Theatre, Fiona and her stellar backing band played a percussion-heavy set that was weird and mesmerizing and powerful. But then... a heckler called out from the balcony. "Get healthy!" and "You used to be beautiful."
The air was instantly sucked from the formerly civilized room. Fiona might've been able to salvage the show if the heckling idiot had been ejected from the theater and it had ended there. But no. The crowd started shouting out encouragements to Fiona, and the entire show devolved into a bloody scene from a brutal nature documentary. Onstage, Fiona ran the spectrum from rage to hurt at being body-shamed, to sad and confused. It was raw and awful, and instantly overshadowed all the amazing songs she had just played.
She finished the show with her encore, a real pro, but the magic was gone. It was Portland at its most tawdry and cheap, unable to let a talented performer shine without "trying to help." She didn't need anyone's help; she was doing a great job, 'til Portland ruined it. At the time, I called it the "grossest, most lowdown, embarrassing thing I have ever seen in our city." And it was, and I'm still mortified by it.