A truly gifted singer/songwriter usually can convey emotion and inner life through a few simple chords and some heartfelt vocals. Sometimes, however, it requires a little more. A reader sends in this report from last night's Nellie McKay performance:
Nellie McKay had a great show at the Troubadour [last night], but had a minor...actually, pretty severe on-stage meltdown near the beginning.
She was talking to the audience about the problems she's been having with Sony and someone shouted "Shut up and sing!" This seemed to touch a nerve with dear Nellie. After politely explaining to the miscreant that "If this continues with Sony, I will leave the music business, BITCH. And NEVER SING AGAIN," she started screaming and crying and "They say I'm just pulling a Barbra Streisand," and "You have NO IDEA WHAT I'M GOING THROUGH," and corporations are raping the world, etc. etc. As the audience, who had previously been laughing and hawing at everything she said, stood there in uncomfortable silence.
It was very Fiona Apple. Then she pulled it together and played for another hour and a half (in that respect, perhaps not so Fiona Apple). Despite this, awesome show. Love her.
In a recent LA Times review of her Wiltern show, Apple's stage demeanor was likened to an exorcism ("...she clutches her dress, twists her head and shakes her shoulders as if trying to exorcise the building tension inside"). Paired with the McKay report, it safely sounds like we are entering a Golden Era of Cute Singer/Songwriter Chicks on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Look in coming months for forever cred-hungry Ashlee Simpson to once again ape the wild antics of her musical mentors, though her psychotic between-song patter threatening never to sing again will likely be greeted with thunderous applause.