When Feist finally did play the iPod single near the end of her set, she called up a special stunt double to dance in her stead.
Fans of all types gathered in waves in front of the sold-out Orpheum Theatre on Friday night for a chance to see "that chick from the iPod commercial." At least one person standing in line described indie darling turned commercial superstar fans and followers of the chanteuse before her TV breakthrough tasted for themselves success' bittersweet palate as they surveyed the capacity audience that ranged from Diesel-wearing hipsters to elementary school students.
One couple from Madison brought their school-aged daughters to the front row for a family night out, complete with matching glowsticks tied in the girls' hair. "This way she'll notice me!" one of them exclaimed. The mother had bought Lesilie Feist's first solo album, Let It Die, but admitted she knew little about her. "Our kids have heard of her, but we're kind of out of it," she said, motioning to her husband.
Though the nice girl in me wanted to appreciate this opportunity for Feist to saturate the mainstream, my inner music snob was irritated by their lack of forethought and undeveloped fandom. After all, I have been listening to Broken Social Scene for years; plus, I had already seen her live. I knew her background, her landlocked childhood, how she recorded her latest album The Reminder in a French mansion wearing her pajamas. Who did these strangers think they were, trying to enjoy Feist without really knowing her? Who were they to jump on my girl?
Yet once Leslie Feist took the stage, once she strummed her first chord and the first shadow puppet danced across the white scrim, others' motives for being there and my own entitlement problems were suspended well before her perfect, last note at the end of "The Park." A drunk guy's shout for "1234" seemed less annoying and more endearing. Everyone wiggled in the same ecstatic way to "I Feel It All," and it wasn't just the little ones giggling at the shapes being projected on the wall.
When she finally did play the iPod single near the end of her set, she called up a special stunt double to dance in her stead, as she had twisted her ankle in Omaha, Nebraska the previous day. And across the stage tiptoed a tiny little girl in a blue sequined bodysuit identical to the one Feist wears in the music video. A local girl, Moira, tapped a tambourine and sang along as her new band members looked on in delight.
One of the advantages of seeing Feist live is that she speaks to her audience in the same way she sings. The throaty voice seems to be perpetually on the edge of laughter, and poetry sneaks out of her prose. As she told the tale of how she hurt her foot, she said that her friends looked "tall as pines" from her place on the ground; her manner of relating stories gives the impression that one is being let in on a delicious secret.
A closed-circuit camera run by a band member added to the homespun vibe of the concert. Set next to the thumping kick drum during "Brandy Alexander" and above a hand drawing hearts and sailboats in thick molasses during "Honey, Honey," it supplied raw footage of performance that complemented the stripped-down but potent music.
Opener Jason Collette put on a fine, if rather unmemorable, performance that was hampered by a surprising lack of interest by the Orpheum audience. Drunk people shouted obscenities and a couple in front of me kept complaining about how "boring" he was. To be fair, this fellow Broken Social scene member played enough similar-sounding mellow songs to put even a speed freak to sleep, but his rapport with the audience was engaging and deserved more attention.
In an age of hundred-dollar tickets and pyrotechnic stage routines, it was a blessed relief to feel as if one was simply watching a company of good friends onstage. Pepper Montgomery, Feist's pal, tap-danced across the stage at one point; Leslie herself hobbled out to play the drums for a song during Jason Collette's set. Call it Canadian kindliness or a native North Country rapport, but maybe it's more than that.
Maybe the music industry needs more artists who are willing to strip away such accoutrements and return to a more primal definition of performance -- a sharing of one's art and self, regardless of age or high music snobbery.