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Fiona Apple makes return to spotlight at SXSW

Fiona Apple performs at the NPR showcase during the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. Fiona Apple performs at the NPR showcase during the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)
By Chris Talbott
AP Entertainment Writer / March 15, 2012
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AUSTIN, Texas—At turns frenetic, contemplative and whimsical, Fiona Apple made her return to the stage Wednesday at the South By Southwest Music Conference and Festival.

The singer-songwriter debuted a handful of new songs from her upcoming album slated to be released this summer at NPR's showcase at Stubb's Barbecue.

The show was one of the most anticipated at South By Southwest this year, and a large crowd turned out to her early evening set. It's been five years since Apple played a live show outside of Los Angeles and seven years since her last album "Extraordinary Machine." She's got a second performance at a Pitchfork showcase in a church scheduled at SXSW before hitting the road for a short eight-date tour Sunday in Chicago.

Apple talked very little with the crowd during the performance, joking that she may have forgotten to sing the second verse of a new song, but pleased fans with some of their favorites, including "Criminal," "Fast As You Can" and "Sleep to Dream."

She turned in a spirited performance, overcoming a muggy evening and muddled sound that left her lyrics inaudible occasionally to many in the crowd. Wearing a black dress with a pink tank top underneath and her hair in a ponytail, she used a mug of hot tea to ease her voice through the final few songs. At one point she laid her head on her piano for about 45 seconds, then lifted it slightly as she watched rapturously as her guitar player finished off a song.

Twitter was afire with fans around the country expressing dismay at not being able to attend the event, but videos of her performance and the new songs were quickly fed to the Internet.

The only details released about the new album have been its title and imminent release. Her publicist said Wednesday that "The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do" will be released in June.

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