Feist: Solid Gold

Feist at the London Palladium/Metals

Feist at Coachella, by Jason Persse

Feist at Coachella, by Jason Persse

The most convincing explanation I have ever heard for why Canada produces so many great singer-songwriters is that there is little else to do. In truth, there is plenty to do in Canada, but love and hockey do seem to sort the artists from the rest.

If boredom leads to hyperactivity the Nova Scotian songsmith, Leslie Feist, must have been terribly stuck for ideas. Despite only producing four solo records since 1999, her Wikipedia page reveals her to be something of a shape-shifter. Friend of ‘the American Radiohead’, Wilco, the genital-obsessed Peaches and Brooklyn jazz quartet Grizzly Bear, you could run out of space discussing her collaborations before you even get to the ‘part-time’ membership of Broken Social Scene and those two hugely successful solo albums, Let it Die and The Reminder.

After what seems like an age, the solo career is back on the agenda and the new album, Metals, is a precious reminder of those swirling Canadian melodies, self-decrying emotions and re-invention that made us love Feist like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young before her.

Bringing her show to the London Palladium, usually the host of the Wizard of Oz musical, seems like a wry move. In fact, it seems to take Feist by surprise, though there is plenty of experimentation with crowd participation on So Sorry and other tracks.

The set list is supposed to build, with Comfort Me breaking the ice. Unfortunately, Graveyard (a personal favourite) and A Commotion just don’t seem to catch life on stage. We have been spoilt for anarchic and melodic rock music by another of Canada’s great (relatively) new bands, Arcade Fire.

A Dylanesque tendency to re-invent old songs also fails to yield early success but the crooning So Sorry and Feel It All are brooding, crackling reminders of how a great song can be given new life.

With Mountain Man giving vocal support to Feist’s riveting voice, which always seems to be on the verge of giving out as though it was never meant to last, the show generates some great moments.  Among them are a sublime Pine Moon, The Bad in Each Other and a practically acapella Cicadas and Gulls.

My Moon My Man and Sea Lion inject energy and prove Feist to be a brilliant, if stringent, guitarist.Three years of watching tomato plants grow has left a little rust. Nonetheless, the reminder that Feist is straight out of Canada’s top drawer is more than welcome.

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