FEIST at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, Thursday, April 27. Rating: NNNN
When Feist announced that her first show after six long years would be at a small church in Toronto to launch her album Pleasure, it seemed like the ideal match of form and function – an intimate venue to showcase a collection of intensely intimate songs.
But if the lucky crowd of 700 packed into Trinity-St. Paul’s were expecting a scaled-down affair, what they got was anything but. Feist may be returning to her small-room roots, but she brought some big-time production values to the sanctuary stage.
Feist and her three-person band (which included Metals-era drummer Paul Taylor) made their way through the new album from beginning to end, opening with the now-familiar plunked chords of the title track as a massive backdrop of neon lights filled the room with a pink glow (matching the woman of the hour’s retro dress and Pleasure’s floral album cover).
“I’m really happy to begin again here,” Feist declared, beaming out at the hometown crowd, which admittedly took some time to warm up to the new material, given many were hearing it for the first time.
The new songs play with expectations, both on the album and in their live incarnations. The pared-down ensemble allowed Feist’s cracked-crystal vocals and killer guitar chops to shine front and centre as they do on the album, while taking the stark arrangements in new directions.
A Man Is Not His Song started out as a sweetly simple acoustic number before morphing into something heavier. Several songs, including the ghostly Lost Dreams, made good use of looping pedals to layer Feist’s own vocals (a staple of her live set since the early days), which felt especially welcome given that backing vocals throughout were handled by two of her male bandmates (one couldn’t help but wonder how transcendent it might be to hear Feist’s collaborators in Hydra, Ariel Engle and Daniela Gesundheit sing on these tunes).
Two false starts to Century (“Look, it’s been a few years, okay?” she quipped) couldn’t dull the new single’s obvious power in the set. Grittier numbers like that one upended any perceptions of Feist as just another singer of pretty songs she rarely gets her due as a flat-out masterful guitar player.
Even the “golden oldies” that closed the show were shape-shifted in dynamic new ways, from a violin playing the ominous opening notes of A Commotion to a steelier take on Sea Lion Woman (bit of a shame that an old cover song received the biggest reaction of the night, but hard to deny it’s a crowd pleaser).
By the time Feist urged everyone to their feet for a joyful, triumphant run through I Feel It All, the choice of closer felt apt given the new record’s themes. After all, listening to her sing to us about love, loss and all the raw emotions in between has always been nothing but a pleasure.
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