I'd never been to the Town Hall venue before, probably because it was located in Times Square. When I walked in last night for the first time, I was confused as to how a rock show was about to take place -- obviously it was seated, but it was also fairly small. A small room for Feist
? It didn't make sense; she has the discography and stage presence for an arena. At the end of the show though, it all made sense… But we'll come back to that later.
First, take any preconceived ideas you have about singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars and throw them away. Feist, real name Leslie Feist, plays as if she was born with a guitar in her hands. While she hits every note perfectly, following the melody she's singing with her voice, there's a little roughness around the edges. She performs with a certain energy as she theatrically strums and whips her body from side to side, similar to the alternative thrash of Annie Clark or Carrie Brownstein while having a free-spirited glow akin to Florence Welch. Her imaginative style is contagious and attracts a particular type of fan -- fans who will not only clap along perfectly on beat, but slowly fade out as she fades out, following the band flawlessly, adding to the music in a positive way.
Feist put on a long, two and a half hour show, the main portion consisting of her latest album Pleasure
, which she played in full, start to finish, calling each song "a new scene in her film." The show started with just Feist playing the incredible opening riff from the album's title track, her voice slightly muffled (which is how it stayed for the remainder of the show). The band joined in later, the drummer contributing with a calculated thump, the bassist setting a minimal groove, and the keyboardist keeping things simple on his end as well. Even with the band accompaniment, it still felt as if Feist was performing on her own -- and that's one of the reasons why she is so great. After listening to her melodies and arrangements, it's apparent that Feist is capable of a lot, yet she still keeps things raw at their roots, all while not being too modest, because hey, she is
a rock star after all.
She's a different kind of rock star though. Her name is not one that would pop into a person's mind when thinking of rock bands, but when you see her live, she rips, and she does it in her own way. She strums the guitar hard while wearing a pink Princess Peach-esque gown. She screams and contorts her voice while whimsically bouncing around the stage like a fairy. She goes for a solo but then contrasts it with a singer-songwriter verse. After the intensity of "I Wish I Didn't Miss You," Feist said, "after you write a song like that, you cool off and write a song like this," right before jumping into the breezy bounce of "Get Not High, Get Not Low."
"You guys are all at a party right now," Feist exclaimed before diving into "Any Party," a mid-set standout. By the end of the track, everyone in the room was chanting "I'd leave any party for you," while Feist flirtatiously ad-libbed, "maybe we can catch a movie? Is there a late night showing?" These improvised add-ons became a regular thing, adding a comical touch to the set that had people chuckling between each song. Later, Feist asked people to slow dance and the lucky in-love volunteers were encouraged to jump onstage with her. Again, they didn't come off as typical fans (minus the one guy who asked for a selfie at the end), rather they contributed to the performance, resulting in a beautiful creation of something new.
There's a reason why Leslie just goes by the name Feist. Her voice might seem delicate, but she'll sing with a slight shriek of angst. It's, well, feisty. She ended several songs with just her voice, recording loops of several different layers, making us feel as if we were watching her in the studio. After finishing Pleasure
, she performed a complete second show of other songs from her discography and then ended her three song encore with a rearranged version of "1234" in honor of members of the Muppets
being in the audience.
By the end of the show, it felt like the venue was tailor-made for this performance. It was spacious enough for Feist's sonic power and intimate enough for fans to sing a long, jump onstage, and request songs (which Feist accepted). It felt like Feist's private party and we were her adored guests. Feist somehow put on the most intimate rager of the century.