The support act, El May, might sound better recorded. They certainly weren’t much live. The sound mix was ordinary, the songs were too polite and boring. The lead singer said, “We’re here to give you a bit of a head massage before Feist blows your mind.” Well I’m not sure about the head massage, but the mind-blowing was true.
Feist herself didn’t come on until about 10.30. Em and I were commiserating about how old it makes us feel that we were irritated by the late start time. We both love being up late at night, but not in the company of many, many drunk people (see previous post for details). And the gap between the support and main act seemed to drag on forever. But once Feist came on, all gripes were forgotten.
A lantern surrounded by leaves is projected onto a screen at the back. A shadowy hand emerges, plucks up the lantern and then Feist tiptoes onstage, holding her lit lantern high, peering out into the darkness, looking for something while the audience creates a storm of applause and shrieking. She slips behind a white screen and sings an intro, silhouetted and looping her own voice until it’s so distorted you can barely make it out. Then the band comes on, four guys backing this tiny girlwoman in a short white dress, her long dark hair sweetly straggling. She grins and says, “First I have to do this,” and pulls a stretchy silver sequinned armband over her mic. I think that is when I fall in love…
She moves like a little girl, swaying from side to side, tilting her head. But her guitar belies the innocence, almost like it’s the grown-up part of her. Her playing is sharp and strong and masterful. The band quietly supports her in her flights of fancy, just humbly making brilliant, tightly woven music that allows her to shine. Her voice is like honey and chocolate and spices and cream. The music passes through you, swirls in your chest, thrums down your legs, rings in your head, brings the smiles out to the surface.
The music is complemented by shadow-play on the screen behind the stage. A woman stands in the wings with a lamp and a bunch of props and she makes whimsical shadow shapes dance. I’ve completely forgotten which song it was now – The Water? Sea Lion? – but she uses her fingers to swirl something that looks like chocolate sauce, making shapes and patterns which eventually resolve themselves into the sea, and a small boat, which eventually is engulfed by the waves. It’s mesmerising and I can’t describe it in a way that would do it justice.
Feist talks to us like we’re old friends, almost shy and bashful at first but then affectionate and delighted. She has a whimsical, quirky, sweet sense of humour that infuses everything she does. She says at one point, “I’ve heard the Opera House has some smaller rooms, is that right? Do you think that you guys could make it happen that next time I come I play there?” The crowd screams its approval and she smiles. “If you all brought a couple of people we could do it…bring your parents – parents love this show. And you know, with the comfy seats, and the various refreshments…yeah you can all come and bring your parents.”
She sings all the songs I wanted her to sing – My Moon, My Man, Gatekeeper, So Sorry, Mushaboom, 1234 – and many more that are just as delightful. By the end, when she sings Let it Die, even the fools who have been chattering throughout the show are quiet.
We squeeze out onto George Street with the crowd, and I wish I didn’t have to stand here with all these people. The city on a Friday night is an ugly place to be, and so far away from the magic and sweetness of the last couple of hours.
I look forward to seeing Feist at the Opera House someday.