Feist makes it to Carnegie [Music] Hall

Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist performed at Carnegie Music Hall last Thursday as part of a four-city tour to promote her sophomore album, The Reminder. Feist, who got her start in the band Broken Social Scene, released her first solo album in 2004, and gained notoriety with the single “Mushaboom,” featured in Lacoste perfume commercials.

Released in May 2007, The Reminder follows in the footsteps of the first release with eclectic, bluesy songs written by the singer. The track list contains upbeat pop numbers like, “I Feel It All” and “1234” (currently in ads for the new iPod nano), as well as more jazz-influenced songs such as “My Moon My Man” and “Brandy Alexander.” Guest producers from Canada, France, and Germany give many of the songs a different sound, yet all of the material is unified by Feist’s ethereal voice, the focal point of every song.

Feist’s live performance on Thursday was no exception. Entranced by Feist’s lyrics and voice, the audience members often fell silent, and Feist even asked them to get up and cheer at one point. Challenging Carnegie Music Hall’s formal environment, she encouraged her audience to pretend “you are at your favorite sticky-floored night club in Pittsburgh.”

Feist asked the audience to participate several other times during her performance. She divided the audience into three parts, assigning each the note of a chord, in addition to letting the audience sing the backup for her well-known songs.

Although she is most known for her voice, Feist surprised those of us unfamiliar with her other talents — she ripped on the guitar and accompanied herself on piano for two of her songs. Vocally, Feist kept her listeners on the edge of their seats with her jazz improvisation and her well-known descending octave trill “oh-oh-oh-oh” (for example, before the choruses in “I Feel It All”) that she slipped in almost every one of her songs.

Aside from her talent, the most pleasant part of the evening was Feist’s warm personality and her ability to converse with the audience. This was a nice contrast to the lead singer of the opening band, Rogue Wave, who was barely audible as he mumbled between songs. Feist was complimentary of her fans, Pittsburgh, and even the venue. “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” she joked about the venue, “You practice. Well, it looks like we practiced!” To a fan who screamed out to Feist that she should wake up a man who’d fallen asleep in the first row, Feist responded, “It’s alright. He can sleep — I sing lullabies. We can get him a pillow backstage if he’d like.”

Maybe it was the comfy seats of Carnegie Music Hall; the high, detailed ceilings; even the old organ pipes that served as a backdrop for the performance, but watching Feist perform was like going to a classical performance. Many of the songs were backed by instruments unusual to pop performances, like the trumpet and French horn. Feist also looped her own voice to create what sounded like a choir of Feists. But whether one or many, Feist put on a concert both enthralling and inspiring.