Better than...Listening to Feist alone in the dark, in Canada.
When Feist took the stage at The Wiltern last night, her tiny frame was almost engulfed by a rag tag assortment of musicians and gear, lending the scene a thrown together, chaotic look. It was unclear how she would possibly be able to utilize all of it.
Accompanying herself on a variety of guitars throughout the night--a hollowbody, an acoustic and a straight up electric--Feist had moments of the revelatory musicianship I have come to expect of her over the years. But the set was too stop and go and the banter too awkward to allow the audience to lose themselves in the dense layers of her compositions.
I first saw Leslie Feist play, unaccompanied, at Central Park Summerstage in 2006, and was blown away by both her ability to shred and by the bell-clarity of her voice. The only time she really seemed to let loose on guitar was during a solo at the end of "How Come You Never Go There," early in the set.
Last night she played a mixture of new and old songs, sticking closely to those off of the recently released Metals, and reworking fan favorites to include her dense backing band and her lead singers, members of the all-female folk group Mountain Man. Songs like "Mushaboom," which sounds almost trite in its original form, benefitted by all the layers of vocals. But other songs, like the joyous "Feel It All" begged to be simplified.
Perhaps the most exciting moment of the show had nothing to do with Feist at all. It took place during an interlude, when she left the stage and allowed her backup singers to perform one of their songs, an intricate three-part harmony. Mountain Man did what I've seen Feist do in the past--they stopped the crowd in its tracks, made it speechless.
Throughout much of the two hour set The Wiltern sounded something like a bar on a slow night, with ripples of conversation steadily flowing in and around the sound, punctuated by a laugh ever so often, or a squeal, disturbing the sound of the music. When Mountain Man were alone on stage, however, the ripple dried up into a drop, and for the first time it felt like the audience was in it together, listening.
Maybe my expectations were just too high, or maybe having your records sold in Starbucks really does do something to an artist. With music that is really just solidly, truly, good, you don't really need all the filler, but when you're headlining a sold out, large venue tour, maybe you think the music has to expand to fill the bigger rooms.
It was when the band stepped back, and left Feist alone with her diamond knife of a voice and her deft fingers against the strings of her guitar, that the magic happened. On songs like "So Sorry," perhaps one of the most heartbreaking songs, well, ever, it was clear that she's still got it. Maybe it's just a problem of abundance, then, and once the fervor dies down the magic will reappear.
Personal Bias: Any time I get tricked into paying $20 for parking I'm liable to be a little salty.
The Crowd: Young and attractive, evenly divided between men screaming "I love you Leslie," like it's the first time the Beatles came to the states, and couples draped over one another, swaying.
Random Notebook Dump: "Is it wrong that I kind of just want to go sit in my car and listen to Metals rather than stand here anymore?"
Set List below
How Come You Never Go There
The Bad in Each Other
Caught A Long Wind
Get It Wrong, Get It Right
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I Feel it All
Let It Die
Limit to Your Love