09/27 Evanston, IL Space
09/28 Chicago IL Mayne Stage
09/30* Cambridge MA The Sinclair
10/01* New York NY (Le) Poisson Rouge
10/06* Washington DC The Hamilton
10/08* Brooklyn NY Rough Trade
10/09* Philadelphia PA World Cafe Live
10/13 London UK Bush Hall
10/15 Paris FR Le Zebre De Belleville – PARIS 11
* with yMusic
Let's get the house in order first, there was no warmup band, but Blake Mills played more than an hour set with a full backing band (Tyler on keys, Stuart on percussions, Sebastian on bass, and Rob on violin*). Also note that was a seated show, and the audience was highly respectful and quiet, making it an ideal new music 'listening party'. The band was really tight and alert, often able to adapt and improvise at a moment's notice to keep up with Mills' sometime off-the-road style of playing. For example, "Seven", as Mills explained, was played differently every night.
The biggest surprise of the night was when Mills announced his special guest, Fiona Apple to join him on stage! There were no indications on the original show announcement, but on retrospect, I suppose if you kept up closely on Mills' whereabouts, all the clues were there. Apple and Mills previously toured together under the "Anything We Want" title last year, so it was nice to see the two together again. Apple and Mills were in really good spirit and the chemistry was just amazing to witness.
For her section, Apple sang on three songs, a Conway Twitty cover song "It's Only Make Believe", followed by "Don't Tell Our Friends About Me" and "Seven". All three songs were also played live previously at the O'Shaughnessy in St Paul last year, so these songs were long in the making before they landed as duets on Mills' Heigh Ho record.
It's probably not worth mentioning, but they seem to have some kind of feedback issue with Apple's mic. It wasn't noticeable during the loud music part, but it was certainly a distraction at quieter moments between songs.
Blake Mills Setlist
Besides the Apple's appearance, the highlight of the set has to be "Gold Coast Sinkin". The story behind this was pretty funny. Since the song that everyone gravitated to ("Don't Tell Our Friends About Me") was not a commercially viable song, with its usage of the f-word in the lyrics. Mills, for creative integrity, also refused to edit or re-record a radio version... so the record label decided to try and push "Gold Coast Sinkin'" as the single. Despite how Mills felt about this "long and slow" song, hearing it live, it sounded like it could be the "smash summer hit of 2015."
Blake Mills is currently on tour in support of his new album Heigh Ho, which came out last week on Record Collection/Verve Records. If you missed the "Anything We Want" tour last year, this is your second chance to see Blake Mills and Fiona Apple again.
* I am pretty sure the violinist' name is Rob Moose, who also play in Bon Iver, as indicated by his custom logo duffle bag.
Blake Mills, with guest Fiona Apple, at Amsterdam Bar and Hall, St Paul (26 Sep 2014)