Fiona Apple Sound Academy, Toronto ON July 4

Fiona Apple Sound Academy, Toronto ON July 4
Fiona Apple has no interest in idle patter. She and her all-business revue turned up at the Sound Academy ready to roll, with a polished sound that defied the venue's notorious sonic limitations and a set list that mined much of the singer's catalogue, plus a little of Conway Twitty's.

Unsurprisingly, Apple has enlisted an all-star backing band, including opener and burgeoning guitar legend Blake Mills, whose presence was immediately felt as leadoff "Fast As You Can" juxtaposed his winding melody with Apple's Ani DiFranco-style sermonizing. With a blues-indebted solo on "Carrion" and a blue-collar grind on "On the Bound," he showed off his versatility.

Still, Apple was the star (see the marquee). Writ live, her voice was at once powerful and dynamic whether hitting a falsetto on "Extraordinary Machine," striking a jazzy pose on "Paper Bag," going sultry on "I Know," or scatting -- yeah, that's right -- on "Not About Love." Taciturn yet impassioned, what she and her cohorts lacked in dialogue, they made up for in gusto and atmosphere.

Subject matter aside, stopwatch timing and ascending keys made "Get Gone" uplifting while tense percussion on "Daredevil," from her recent Idler Wheel... album, darkened the mood. Conversely, indulging Apple's cabaret influences, tracks like "Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)" restored levity.

An obligatory "Criminal" had Apple writhing but closer, a wink-free, gorgeously rendered take on Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe" was the night's real highlight. Take that, Peter Griffin.