Leslie Feist may not have performed alone since she was 12, but luckily for a master musician, these moments come naturally.
She strolls onto the stage from behind the curtains of the Rebecca Cohn Monday night, doubling back briefly before standing under a single spotlight. A woman and her guitar.
“I know it’ll need to go from good to worse, living in the past begins the ending first,” she sings, opening her show with the ethereal song The Circle Married the Line, from her most recent album Metals, which won the Polaris Music Prize in 2012.
It is received in appreciative silence.
The only sound aside from her voice is the thump of her hand against the guitar’s body as she makes her own beat.
“I don’t know if I should give it away, don’t banter, don’t undermine yourself,” she whispers, while gearing up for the next track — deciding how she wants to engage with the audience.
It’s the start to her Mettle Tour, which has four stops, the other three being in the U.S. And if she continues to hold two-hour shows and a crowd’s adoration with her uncanny voice, a little reverb and funny Feistian anecdotes, she truly deserves her show’s title.
With no band and no backtracks, she shows true talent.
Now world famous, Feist hasn’t been to Halifax since 2008 when she performed at the Metro Centre. This is a drastically different experience. She is solo in a more intimate space; both the performance and the performer are stripped back and bare.
It’s a beautiful experience, and as a longtime Feist fan, seeing her perform solo first-hand allows you to truly know that the insightful lyrics come from a sensitive soul. Although it’s the name of one of her songs, when she says I Feel It All, you know she really does.
She’s a vision in a blue dress. Its low back showing the small of her back and leaving the audience wondering how so much sound comes from such a small frame. She is bare-legged and carefree, with her long hair hanging loose. It shakes as she twists and turns; she sways as if embodying the ocean itself in her choice of colour, along with her rising cadences.
For the Amherst-born singer-songwriter, this is not only a return to the sea but a return to old songs.
Covering such classics as Gatekeeper, Lonely Lonely and Let it Die, from the album of the same name, along with tracks from The Reminder as well as the most recent Metals, the concert is contemplative.
In seeking some time on stage for herself, it feels as though Feist is soul-searching, reflecting on her past body of work, breathing new life into it.
“I haven’t played a song in a really long time and I had an intuition about it. And I don’t think I was wrong in pausing and not playing it for a long time, but I feel like it’s time to bring it, to reclaim it, to allow it to have its new era, a new island,” says Feist, while setting up for the crowd favourite 1234.
A Canadian household name, she turns out to be quite humble as she casually converses with the crowd.
“I practise the songs but not the talking part,” she said.
But that’s OK. The music is what we came for, and seeing this personal side of Feist is fun.
Although short on details, she certainly can tell a story, albeit we already knew this, thanks to her strength in songwriting.
The indie-folk singer may not have played any funk, but with songs such as Sea Lion Woman, she sets a groove, stretching back to the early days of jazz by using call-and-response techniques to engage the crowd.
She is accompanied by Kevin Drew who opens the show with a sample of his new album Darlings, and some songs from the band of which they are both members, Broken Social Scene.
Gordon Downie is a surprise guest, playing both with Drew in the opening act and with both Feist and Drew in one of her many encores. Although obviously an impromptu performance, they sing Tragically Hip’s Flamenco after Feist calls Downie one of “Canada’s greatest voices” and “an inspiration in her youth.”
Feist holds her guitar high above her head to close the show on a strong note, yet her silly nature shines through as she struggles to free herself from a bass amplifier chord wrapped around her ankles.
“I’m trying to leave, you can have it, it’s cool,” she said.
Originally published in The Chronicle Herald.