The Palais Theatre along with other venues of similar ilk and genre seem to be a dying breed. The slightly musky smell, the old seating that appears to be halfway between comfortable and butt numbing, and the theatrical ambience can make for a truly unique and spellbinding night when all the elements are right. Or it can mean a yawn inducing evening spent looking at one’s watch/smart phone wishing for the conclusion of the gig. Tonight, Feist’s performance oscillated somewhere between these two extremes.
This scribe entered the venue in almost total darkness, trying unsuccessfully to avoid disgruntled patrons’ feet, when locating a seat (an act not recommended for the faint hearted), whilst folk trio Mountain Man, clad in jewel coloured flowing robes, filled the venue with their soaring harmonies and danced in unison. Formerly they were an internet sensation, making music solely for their own enjoyment; now their audience is far wider than they had anticipated, having secured the international tour with Canadian songstress Leslie Feist.
After a short hiatus Feist enters the stage with her entourage, including support act, Mountain Men as her back up vocalists and greets the crowd with a simple “Hi”, before stirring the seated punters with “Undiscovered First” off her latest studio release, fourth album Metals. The song starts innocuously, and simply, but then tambourine and percussion kicks in with violent fervour along with Mountain Man’s vocals and synchronised swaying which has a hypnotic effect on the crowd, lulling them into submission. Feist’s angelic voice is devastating in its sheer brutal power. The intensity of Feist’s performance doesn’t abate when latest release off Metals, “How Come You Never Go There” follows. Feist is stomping her feet and firmly strumming her guitar, with vocals gritty and heartbreaking enough to make a Melbourne Parking Officer shed tears.
It’s not long before Feist delves into older material with crowd pleaser “Mushaboom”, moving away from a set drawn heavily off latest release Metals. Perhaps that was the issue of the night; “Metals” is good, but the majority of songs fail to reach the heady heights that they should live, given Feist’s spine tingling vocals, the solid performances of the musos and Mountain Man, but the crowd doesn’t share this reviewer’s view. They are upstanding, shouting, singing along, and sounding like they are having multiple orgasms.
“So Sorry” off the reminder follows a few songs down the track, but it’s an alternative rendition to the recorded track of the glorious “My Moon My Man”, that sets off two brave audience members right up to the stage dancing whilst being accosted by security to take their seats. At this point Feist plays to the duo and says to security” I know you’re doing your job, but they are doing their job too”, shortly after encouraging the entire seated crowd to get up and dance. Feist later refers to the couple as the “ones who broke the sound barrier” and invites them once more to the front of the stage for “I Feel It All”. Yes this all sounds wonderful and uplifting but this Tone Deaf writer as though going through the motions, and not “feeling it all”.
Two encores followed, the first opening with “When I Was A Young Girl” and Nina Simone’s “Sealion”, whilst the second, “Intution” concluded the set.
Coming from one who’s an ardent admirer and fan of Feist, the evening was missing something. Either expectations were too high or perhaps the gig was a little too perfect leaving no space for chaos and imperfection to weave its magic and make the night unforgettable.
– Anna Megalogenis