Feist, Royal Albert Hall, London
Friday 23 May 2008
There's nothing new in pop acts deploying back-projected images to add a dimension to a live show, but, for her biggest London date so far, Leslie Feist extended the visual frontiers with an effect that was as beguiling as the music that has lifted her from indie obscurity to major mainstream success.
In addition to the five musicians Feist had on stage, there were two other performers – Clea Minaker and an assistant called Dianne Montgomery, who were responsible for a "shadow projection" show that unfolded on a giant square screen suspended at the back of the stage.
Akin to shadow-puppetry, the show consisted of shifting tableaux of imagery – jewellery, other objects, a plant coming up through the soil – that occasionally bordered on the twee but in the main beautifully complemented the intimacy and mystery that are at the heart of Feist's appeal.
Feist, dressed in a white braided tunic and white tights, deployed herself in a strikingly pictorial way, performing her opening song – a new, unaccompanied number called "Young Girl" – while silhouetted behind a much smaller screen, and soon having Minaker come on and scatter flower petals over her.
Given the awesome nature of the space that has to be filled by any Albert Hall performer, Feist's decision to add value to what she had to offer was understandable, though when it came to it, the 32-year-old Canadian had the experience, the presence, and the musical strength not to have worried. This was a captivating show in which all of the Feistian elements came together in the kind of alchemy whose effects stay with an audience long after the music's stopped.
It seems almost a shame that it took an iPod ad to put Feist on the map, the appropriation of "1-2-3-4" as a backing track sending her fortunes soaring when the campaign started running last autumn. The album from which it came, The Reminder, has now sold more than a million copies. One likes to think that quality will out under any circumstances, but if nothing else this show proved that there is so much more to Feist than that one, albeit irresistible, track, not least a nice dry wit in the way she conducted proceedings between songs.
The Feist voice – breathy and seductive but also gutsy and growly – has never sounded better, from the pillow-talk of "Honey, Honey" to the punchier end of her spectrum in songs like "My Moon My Man" and the delirious "I Feel It All". Everything on The Reminder was performed, along with a handful of more recent songs that suggested she might be heading in a harder-edged direction.
With her unobtrusive but supremely accomplished backing band – warmth courtesy of the magnificent Bryden Baird on horns – Feist didn't just feel it all, she had it all.
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