I’ve covered three shows at Radius in the past year and each has been uniquely different, each in their own respect. I must admit going into last Friday’s Feist show, I was a bit worrisome as the venue is not the most photo-friendly, lighting wise, but at the same time I have seemingly come out of each experience unscathed and fairly happy with what I've captured.
On the other hand, sound-wise, the venue has been pretty stellar and I have enjoyed each of the shows covered. Onto the evening’s main event, and I do believe that is one great way to describe what Feist has created as a live performance. I use that latter word heavily because I believe what I witnessed is something similar to that genius performance artist you remember in art school who blows your mind and can only dream where their work can evolve to years down the road.
Feist released her fifth album, Multitudes, just about a month ago and embraces the meaning behind that album title both in her current approach to her music as well as what I witnessed in the evening’s performance. In my various opportunities getting to cover past Feist performances, many of the layers she creates in her music were recreated by additional vocalists/musicians on stage. Her music lyrically has always revealed layers of meaning behind what sounds like sweet light-hearted, romanticized melodies. The layers revealed in her new work seemingly dig deeper into her personal life to find a level of honesty with herself and her life.
What's quite beautiful, in my opinion, is how a setlist of past and present songs performed in a new light allows us (the audience) to experience her own reconnection with layers of herself.
The unique approach of her performance is something to be seen in person, but I will do my best to narrate what I had the pleasure to experience. The venue was set up with two separate stages (the main one blocked off with a projection screen as well as a duplicate one mirroring across the venue and blocking off the back half. Somewhat near the sound both was a small circular stage with a mic and a few acoustic guitars and a crowd slowly starting to surround It. With no idea where she was going to start from, when the lights dimmed projections of an iPhone camera appeared on the screen. It didn’t take too long to realize Feist in a lovely bright orange dress was navigating her way to the stage, sneaking up and surprising various concert goers on the way taking visual notes of their hair, jewelry or patterns on shirts.
Finally arriving onstage, it became evident her phone camera was going to be a permanent prop for the evening's performance. Finally setting it down in an angle facing her feet she replaced it with one of her guitars and softly dug into the first part of her set. She did a really great job of spanning through her catalogue of records and, similar to the MTV Unplugged series back in the '90s, she spent time in between with stories and intimately interacting with the audience closely surrounding her.
Her interactions included a quick survey of generations in the room, stories of past experiences, along with these personal introductions of the next song as she sometimes humbly reminded herself of the intricate notes she composed on the guitar. At times, there was this fun hint of her punk rock past in her singing/playing, which was an enchanting contrast given her mild-mannered appearance and the evening’s intimate setting.
At some point, she returned to her phone camera, changing the views on the projection and finally landing on a crowd member, “Coleton,” and the tattoo on his wrist. She decided to send her phone off into the crowd with him to change up the view as she continued to play through her set. It was a lovely change of pace to the performance as Coleton added a new layer of visuals and clearly knew some special filters on Feist’s phone that created literal multitudes of her playing on the screens. She finally directed him on a scavenger hunt to bring something back for her and our attention was split between following his trail and watching her perform. It made for a fun musical adventure.
What he retrieved and returned to her along with her phone was a personal journal with a phone number listed on the inside cover. Obviously, we all know what happens next; she calls the number and it’s someone at the show and he “can't believe Feist is reading his journal.” She finally lands on some writing to read aloud to the crowd until it becomes noticeable she is no longer reading from the journal but is still reciting words, and when finally put to music translated into lyrics of “I Took All of My Rings Off.” It was a ploy, and she cleverly fooled us to think it was a randomly found journal and that “Coleton” was a randomly selected camera handler.
The band onstage from behind the screen begins playing as she makes her way to the main stage. The most memorable quote of the evening came around this point in between songs, when she saw a crowd member filming her and said, “The internet is not going to understand the special time we had here tonight...” And it was so accurate. She was successfully able to accomplish a piece of performance art at an incomparable level and was able to right-size herself regardless of her successful career where everyone in that venue felt personally connected to her on one lever or another. The supporting band and light show only emphasized this experience to another level almost like a large group embrace she had perfectly choreographed.
She finished her set with the crowd pleaser "1234" but with her own Multitudes twist to It. It's not exactly the same, but it reminded me when I was a teenager finally getting to see Nirvana live and it took most of their set until finally playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Kurt Cobain sang the final and crowd favorite verse with the mic completely jammed in his mouth making his words inaudible. Like I said, not the same but equally enjoyable and appreciated as a fan.
Feist returned to the quiet and intimate sensation making her way through the crowd in an interprative dance and serenading us with "Of Womankind." Ultimately, with the lines, “Come outside, The trees hold out their arms, And can't tell lies," she lands lying on the floor in the fetal position as if returning to the womb of everyone surrounding her. The “journal and phone” props return one last time for the evening as Feist reaches under the returned projection screen for her guitar.
Coleton finds the lyric for "Love Who We Are Meant To" and guides the audience through Feist’s words. It’s been a long time since I've witnessed a musician’s successful usage of projection in their show and this evening I was left in awe.
The Redwing #
Forever Before #
Martyr Moves #
A Man Is Not His Song #
The Bad in Each Other #
I Took All of My Rings Off *
My Moon My Man
Hiding Out in the Open
Become the Earth
Sea Lion Woman (traditional cover)
I Feel It All
Love Who We Are Meant To
# - acoustic
* - big reveal of stage