Feist Live music review (Sydney Opera House)

There was a time when a rock ‘n’ roller handing over a tune to be used as an advertising jingle would result in loud choruses of “sell out” thrown at the artist. Times have changed and Feist is not exactly in the rebellious rocker category, so might survive “selling out” in any era.

Apart from any ethical considerations, what is the issue with having a song used for advertising? Often the ad gets high rotation and is lodged in the brains of the public in association with a product or service. Any emotional weight the song had gets lost.

Feist’s best known track 1234 (co-authored by Australia’s Sally Seltmann) became the “Nano Song” after it was used to promote Apple’s Ipod Nano in 2007. Even the song’s video was used in the promotion. Thankfully, the ad and the Nano itself have long passed from our collective consciousness but it remains a great song.

Canadian indie chanteuse Feist (known offstage as Leslie Feist) is 41 years old, but already has a 25 year career in the music business, beginning in a punk band in Calgary. Feist is in Australia on the back of her fifth album as a solo artist, Pleasure, released earlier this year. Her last album, Metals, came out in 2011, a number of years after its predecessor, The Reminder.

A lot more grunt was put into the songs live than heard in their recorded versions.

Feist is not unlike one of her favourite artists, PJ Harvey, in that she needs to get away from past work in order to be satisfied with new creations. This is most evident on Pleasure: it’s more stripped back than Metals which was densely packed with sounds. Indeed, the title track Pleasure echoes PJ Harvey in its moody chorus with Feist repeating “It’s my pleasure, and your pleasure” before a blast of heavy rock guitar is delivered.

The show began on Sunday (December 3) with a rousing rendition of Pleasure. Feist then announced that she and her band would play the album Pleasure in its entirety. It has become something of a trend in recent years for artists to play albums in their entirety. However, it is largely heritage artists playing “classic” albums.

It is a bold and brilliant thing for Feist to join the brave few playing new albums. Pleasure is a fantastic album and following the blistering title track is the gentle, I Wish I Didn’t Miss You. Feist and the band played the album flawlessly as it ebbed and flowed from the quiet of Get Not High, Get Not Low to barnstormers like the title track and Century. The highlight of the album set was Any Party, which combines both the aforementioned musical moods and ponders Thirtysomething-hood lyrically.

After the final track from Pleasure (Young Up), Feist announced she was ready to “go back in time”, before launching into old favourite My Moon My Man. It didn’t disappoint and was performed in a much more “rock” fashion than the recorded version. Apart from quiet tracks, a lot more grunt was put into the songs live than heard in their recorded versions. The highlight of the show was a cover of Nina Simone’s, Sealion. It brought the house down and showed off the extent of Feist’s vocal chops.

1234 was played as an encore with the tune’s birth mother, Sally Seltmann, joining Feist and band onstage. Feist thanked her band and her support staff from her tour manager to the mixing desk crew, as Sunday’s performance was the last of her Pleasure tour. A nice touch, as it was a fantastic show and of course, no one is truly a solo artist.

Image: Feist performing at Sydney Opera House on Sunday, December 3. Photo by Prudence Upton

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