Live Review: Feist at The Neptune Theatre 10/4

all photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

It’s relatively uncommon for contemporary artists to perform entire albums live from start to finish, and it’s even less common for them to play their new albums in their entirety. It takes a certain kind of audacity, one which Feist embodied wholly Wednesday night, as she played her Pleasure album start to finish (and then some) in the first show of her two-night stand at the Neptune Theatre.

Her first album in six years, Pleasure is forward-facing and finds Feist interested more in exploring the range of human emotions – our desires, delights, and disappointments – than any kind of nostalgia from her indie-pop beginnings. Performing the new album was a fitting way for her present the new material, and a testament to the strength of the album, powerful and complex in its subject matter and musicality.

Appearing on stage in the same bright florals she dons on Pleasure’s bougainvillea-drenched album art, Feist and her three-piece band launched into the title track, her voice sounding both deeper and heavier live, and as exquisite as ever. A thing of wonder, Feist’s voice is paradoxical in its flat simplicity and its dimensional complexity. Her vocal versatility is especially apparent live. She is an expert in dynamics, ranging from substantive softs to jagged screams. At times during “Pleasure,” her vocals resembled PJ Harvey in their roughness and dramatic playfulness. As she ambled through the second song, a stirring “Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” her expansive dynamic range made the post-breakup tune all the more heartbreaking, as her backup vocalists added to the heartache with their celestial tones.

From the moment she walked out onto the Neptune’s dramatically lit stage, Feist seemed confident and comfortable, engaging the audience in casual banter and generous exchanges, even adlibbing site-specific references into a song about the Neptune’s Rocky Horror past and circling back to earlier banter as only a skilled conversationalist-chanteuse could.

At one point, she acknowledged how long it had been since she last toured through Seattle (she played The Moore back in 2011), and asked her audience, “What’s been going on here?” To which one cranky audience member replied, “Too many people moved here!” Adding diplomacy to her job description, Feist didn’t miss a beat: “Are any of those new people here tonight? You should meet up by the bar and discuss!”

She also facilitated a number of audience sing-alongs during the Pleasure portion. The audience was thrilled to sing the line “You know I’d leave any party for you” during the lovely waltz “Any Party,” and again in “A Man is Not His Song,” during which a Feist super-fan in the first balcony row conducted the audience in a little call and response action.

Other highlights from the Pleasure portion were “Century,” which found Feist returning to her tasseled electric Les Paul Jr. with some jagged edges and guitar snarls, as she skidded around the stage like St. Vincent. The bluesy “I’m Not Running Away” was also a highlight, showcasing Feist’s versatility as a guitarist, her guitar and vocal riffs dovetailing as the lyrics “I’m not running away / Water is running like I stay” spun a sultry tale of self-deception.

The wonderful thing about shows where artists play albums start to finish is that everything they play after the album seems like an added bonus. After playing the 11 songs of Pleasure, Feist “dive bombed into the past,” as she hit on one indie pop hit after another, from 2004’s Let It Die and 2007’s The Reminder, relaxing even more on stage and continuing to break things down on her guitar (her solo on “Sealion” was especially searing).

Feist closed out the show with a couple lighthearted renditions of what are probably two of the weightiest songs of her repertoire. She humorously prefaced the bittersweet “Let It Die” by saying “It’s not rare that people tell me this was the first song played at their wedding. I want you to think about that as you listen.” And the audience laughed out loud as she emphasized the song’s resigned, dejected lyrics. Before launching into the sole song of her encore set, “1234,” she disclosed her complicated relationship with the ten-year-old hit song. Having avoided it for many years, she recently sorted through that complicated past, and her fans were oh so appreciative! Her initially pensive prelude quickly blossomed into a shiny happy sing-along that was both goofy and graceful in its newfound resolution.

Setlist
Pleasure
Wish I Didn’t Miss You
Get Not High, Get Not Low
Lost Dreams
Any Party
A Man Is Not His Song
The Wind
Century
Baby Be Simple
I’m Not Running Away
Young Up
Mushaboom
Gatekeeper
My Moon My Man
Sealion
The Bad in Each Other
I Feel It All
Let It Die

Encore:
1234

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