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It was easy, on Monday night at the Top of the Standard, to suss out who was a Fiona Apple fan and who was just there for the party. The former had turned out in multitudes — in denim jackets and lopsided ponytails, summer-weight scarves and heavy black boots — and as the expected performance time lapsed by almost two hours, they were getting antsy.
“She’s such a psycho, I love her,” one partygoer by the bar trilled, adding, “Where the hell is she?”
Kim Stolz and her fiancé were excited for the performance. “She’s rad,” Stolz intoned, “and I can’t wait to see her.”
It has been a while. Apple’s new album, “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do,” was released at midnight on Monday, nearly seven years since her last album. Midnight was also about the time she finally appeared onstage.
Apple’s was the latest in a series of small concerts the hotel features in the “Standard Sounds” program at the club, which has offered acts like Lady Gaga, Patti LaBelle, Kanye West and Lykke Li. Audiences are generally a cramped blend of magazine editors, celebrities and club kids with varied levels of enthusiasm. Nate Lowman, Richard Chai, Phillip Lim, Emily Weiss and José Parlá were all on hand.
“I’m a big fan,” Chai enthused, hustling to the crowded bar for a good view of the stage. A bartender held his phone aloft to videotape the performance; drink orders had halted with the singer’s arrival.
“Hi, everybody,” Apple grinned, immediately engulfed by flashbulbs. “Oh, you photographers keep taking pictures and I’ll have a seizure,” the singer said, launching into a brief tour of her oeuvre in a six-song set that drove through her late-Nineties hits to the track “Anything We Want” from her current album. Onstage, the sylphlike Apple gyrated, convulsing with frenetic energy. She hoisted herself onto her piano during a guitar solo, thrusting at her bandmates. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody take their ponytail down so…sensually,” Jenna Elizabeth said as the singer unwound her hair for a few minutes before miming choking herself with it during a bass solo. “She’s amazing,” Zani Gugelmann agreed.
Toward the end of the concert, as revelers lip-synched along to “Criminal” and struggled to navigate a space both thick with the crush of fellow partygoers and perhaps not the most conducive to concerts, the singer shed the cardigan and scarf she’d worn onstage and began speaking.
“So…hey. What are you guys talking about?” Apple interrupted her set, the microphone nearly in her mouth as she addressed the audience with eyes wide. “Are you talking about this set you saw at the Standard and how much you liked it? Oh, I don’t care, I should probably spray water on you, huh? Next song!”