Feist, The Happiness Project
November 8, 2011
Better Than: Seeing this show anywhere else in town.
Leslie Feist's genius isn't as much her ability to write and perform great pop music as it is the company she keeps. And at last night's performance at the Majestic Theatre, one of only seven U.S shows on this tour, she was flanked on all sides by capable, brilliant musicians and artists.
Onstage to her left was Mountain Man, an all-female Appalachian style a cappella trio, who have signed on to add rich harmonies to Feist's live shows. To her right was a piano player and drummer, both of whom were more than proficient. It was clear the drummer came from a jazz background, never losing the rhythm no matter how loud or quiet the song called for him to play. But behind her was multi-instrumentalist Charles Spearin, her ace-in-the-hole.
Spearin, a founding member of Canadian band Broken Social Scene -- a band Feist once belonged to -- added violins, drums, keyboards, guitars, bass and random percussion throughout the entire set.
With the band offering so much of their own creativity to her music (many of the older songs were treated with a new arrangement), Feist was able to focus on the centerpiece of the performance: her voice.
Distinctly intimate, yet powerful, Feist sent her voice washing over the intricately molded walls of the theatre, using echoes of the cavernous room to her advantage, where most vocalists would lose theirs somewhere in the rafters.
She encouraged members of the audience to use their voices, too, conducting a three-part harmony divided by the three main seating areas. She constantly relied on the audience to sing, shout and respond to her call. And they did. Every time.
The band seemed like it was made to perform in boomy halls, keeping it simple while rocking loudly on songs like "A Commotion," and "The Bad In Each Other," both from her recently released album Metals
. "I Feel It All" from 2007s The Reminder
was dumbed down to a punk version that actually made sense, though a rendition of the recorded version would have been just as welcome.
Feist and the band were able to introduce more intricate arrangements on the quieter tunes like "So Sorry," "How Come You Never Go There" and "Mushaboom," which benefited from a wildly different arrangement.
Though she stood at the center of the stage, she seemed happy to share the spotlight. At one point, she allowed Mountain Man to perform one of their own songs. But there was never a point when Feist wasn't the center of attention. Her musical ability and magnetism onstage made it difficult to look elsewhere.
The true highlight of the evening was seeing the performance from the opening act, The Happiness Project, led by Spearin. He was joined onstage by a violinist, saxophonist, harpist, a drummer and a pianist, all of whom performed beautiful jazzy flourishes that accompanied spoken word recordings Spearin has acquired from his neighbors. He records them speaking in a normal conversation, cuts it up into a rhythmic pattern, and adds music.
Personal bias: My wife is the bigger Feist fan in our family. If it wasn't for her, I would've never given Feist's new album Metals a chance. I'm glad I did.
Random note: More concert at the Majestic, please.
By the way: My official favorite concert moment of the year happened when The Happiness Project performed in tandem with the audio of a deaf woman speaking. I wasn't the only one. There were audience members with tears in their eyes.