Folk Fest 2013 concert review: Leslie Feist

Feist is a performer that’s renowned for visual flare in her live performances as well as her musical prowess. Her closing set on Thursday night of this year’s Edmonton Folk Music Festival did not fail to live up to that legacy, and despite a few horrid moments roused by the audience members that joined her on stage, she put on a show that I’m convinced I couldn’t see anywhere else.

Feist didn’t perform her songs straight off of her record. Instead she sang variations of her tracks. This is a practice I wish artist would adopt more frequently. Asking your audience to join in with the chorus once in a while in fine, but talent really shines when you can manipulate your studio tracks into something different, but equally great.

She put on a show I’m convinced I couldn’t see anywhere else

I must admit that initially I didn’t expect too much in the way of abstracts graphics when Feist took the stage – I’ve only ever known the Folk Fest Main Stage to feature basic light shows. However, Feist’s set feature three large screens that stretched the full height of the stage, and they offered more than enough real estate for her nature-influenced projections to set the mood of each song.

Mood is only part of what made Feist’s concert groove though. I am continually blown away by the percussive nature of her voice. It’s almost as is if there’s a fourth instrument on stage. I’m confident that if you were to remove the audio waveforms where her lyrics can be distinguished, you’d still have a fantastic show. Her attack and decay on each note always has a deliberate feel that helps me lock into her music. In this way, her voice exist in a range that I just don’t hear utilized by other singers.

She bites into notes and then sustains and comforts them in ways that stir the pulse of a pop song, but she also drags out an emotional reaction. Her voice filled the hill and that was when she wasn’t using her loop pedals to compound the experience into a wall of glorious sound.

About half way through the show, Feist had played a good selection of songs from her old library as well as her new, but when she shifted to a rock section of her concert I was quite surprised. Grooving tom toms and power chords galore – it was a high energy section that fell within the Feist vibe, but it was definitely a different flavour than I’m used too – and her band killed it.

I hate to belabour the point, but I swear, at times it was like her voice was another drum kit duelling with the real set on stage. These rock tunes felt like they would gel well with the pacing of an indie action-movie. The chorus was something you couldn’t resist quickly getting hype to, and the slower instrumental breaks would complement dialogue nicely.

When she invited several folkies onto the stage to chant into her mic, it was not pleasant – actually, it was quite painful

For the most part, I can’t find anything to fault Feist for in the performance she put on. I can however point out some unfortunately souring displays by the audience members she called on stage for her finale.

At first, it was just a cute couple called to the stage to do a little slow dancing (even if they didn’t know how to slow dance, that’s something most people can tolerate.) However, when she invited several folkies up to chant into the same mic as her, it was not pleasant. Actually, it was painful. So much so that I nearly forgot the incredible concert I’d just experienced, all because of a few tone-deaf fans.

After that experience, I’m glad I took notes on the show; the finale was a briefly numbing experience, but I’m sure everyone of the hill had stockpiled enough great memories from the night Feist delivered to justify blotting out that single moment.

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