On Sept. 16 Canadian-born singer/songwriter Feist performed in a sold-out show at the Troubadour in Hollywood, supported by fellow Canadians Judd and Marge.
Canada has produced its share of American-embraced music artists, most notably Alanis Morrisette and Nickelback, the more recent Avril Lavigne and Sum 41and the most recent indie bands bred in Montreal: the Arcade Fire and the Stills.
Feist, whose real name is Annette Aurell and is known for her collaborations with quiet indie favorites Broken Social Scene and Kings and Convenience, has been enjoying her success with her latest release ‘Let it Die,’ culminating with sold out shows all over the States, a certified gold album in France and a lot of good press, including a rare four-star in Rolling Stone.
The Sept. 16 show proved to me exactly what I had hoped after listening to ‘Let it Die,’ which is that the petite Canadian who goes by the moniker Feist may have the prettiest voice … ever.
Kind of in the vein of Indians who wouldn’t let white men take their picture out of fear that their soul would be stolen, I’m not going to sully the near-sacred qualities of her voice by actually trying to describe it with words. But allow me to put it this way: If I could afford it, I would pay this woman to sing me to sleep and to wake every day of my life.
Openers Judd and Maggie warmed up the audience with a similar type of music. The brother- sister duo is also from Canada and also have very soothing voices. Their set was very stripped down: only a keyboard or acoustic guitar and bass.
The best part about this duo is their harmonies, which were soothing and sweet, familiar to folk and old-school country. Their songwriting was sometimes very powerful and drawing, while other times a bit hit and miss.
Their new album ‘Subjects’ came out on Aug. 23 on RCA/Victor Records.
By the time Feist came on, the Troubadour was packed and ready to bow down, to worship that voice.
The most pleasantly surprising aspect of this show was Feist’s guitar-playing abilities. She sang and played guitar the entire show, switching between electric and acoustic. A couple of times she took solos with an impressive air of confidence and cool. Her playing generally modeled after the pick-and-pluck style of folk guitar players. Her vintage distortion set her apart, however, creating a feel of classic- rock guitar players of the past.
Feist’s opening songs were performed with her full band: drums, bass and this one guy who seemed to play just about every instrument, including keyboard, French horn and percussion.
Her third song, the single ‘Gatekeeper’ from ‘Let it Die’, which may be one of my favorite songs, sounded amazing live, with the audience helping with backup chants implored by Feist herself.
Besides being independently talented, Feist has had a long history with different alternative and under-the-radar favorites over the year, increasing her indie street cred.
Feist started singing as a teen in a punk band and then played guitar in the rock band The Tragically Hip before putting out her first solo album in 1999.
In 2000, the singer/songwriter sang on her roommate and cult favorite Peaches’ first album, ‘Taste of Peaches.’
In 2001, Feist started working on the Broken Social Scene album with two guys who had written instrumentals under the same name. The album was eventually released in 2003.
Feist also collaborated with Norwegian Kings of Convenience’s 2004 album ‘Riot on Empty Street,’ which is gaining near-equal popularity with critical praise.
After three with the full band, Feist was left alone on stage only with her guitar where she could sing a few intimate songs.
It is often frowned upon when live artists use any sort of recording or play back in their show. The logic is that the performance is less authentic and in the realm of lip-synching.
This opinion is completely ruled out when a live artist uses recordings and play backs in awesome ways.
During a few of Feist’s songs by herself, she would sing the backup parts in a small mike next to her main one.
Then after they were played back repeatedly, she would then record the harmonies for those backups. Then when they were all being played back she would begin singing the lead.
If this doesn’t make any sense to you, imagine that scene in ‘Ray’ when all the backup singers get drunk and leave and Ray Charles is forced to record all the backups and harmonies himself. Imagine that, but live and on the spot. It was impressive and not like anything I had ever seen.
After three or four solo songs, the rest of the band came out and brought the energy level up with ‘Secret Heart’ ‘One Evening’ and ‘Mushaboum.’
It was really hard to leave that voice when the night ended but all I could do is look forward to future shows. I highly recommend seeing Feist if you like pretty girls who sing pretty songs with pretty voices.
Feist will be playing Nov. 8 at the Henry Fonda Theatre. Her album ‘Let it Die’ is out now on Universal.