Feist tweeted last month that for the making of her new album, Pleasure, she was "raw and so were the takes," and in many ways that's how her sold-out concert at Trinity-St. Paul's United Church in Toronto was Thursday night (April 27) to kick off the release, out the same day. But it wasn't raw in a miserable, angry way - more natural, unprocessed and free.
For an hour and 45-minutes, she played the whole album beginning to end, then added in what she called "some slightly tarnished golden oldies."
It was a hot ticket, available to those who signed up for a pre-sale code via Ticketmaster's new Verified Fan program. It didn't stop tickets from showing up on resale sites, but it must have limited the amount and a few were released last minute.
It's been six years since her last album, Metals, and she's easing back into the spotlight with club shows in major cities along with festival dates, such as the one in a month back in Toronto, Field Trip, featuring her own set and presumably one with the headliners, her other band, friends collective Broken Social Scene.
BSS's Brendan Canning came out to her show Thursday night, but there were no special guests onstage. And there didn't need to be. The audience was so attentive and rapt. She even thanked us for "listening so openly and presently." It wasn't hard. The setting demanded it.
The two-level, 785-seat Jeanne Lamon Hall received a major renovation a couple of years ago, including sound design by master acoustician Robert Essert, and for an artist like Leslie Feist, whose music and vocals are so nuanced - whispers and rages, distortion and gentle whimsy, violin and chimes, loops and other sounds - it just made everything crystal clear.
Wearing a prom-like, ankle-length, red straight skirt with a matching ruffled, sleeveless blouse, she was joined on stage with her three-piece band - two multi-instrumentalists/backing vocalists and a drummer - and played guitar herself throughout. There was no ceiling lighting rig, but rather a giant bright wall that looked more like a room divider and that sometimes blinded the audience on the more aggressive parts, and a giant fan that opened behind her like a peacock tail.
As she went song-by-song through the 11-track album, she said a few words about some or chatted to the audience. Just after the ethereal, wispy, almost childlike "Get Not High, Get Not Low," she said, "It's been a while since I've seen any of you - or any of you for that matter. I'm really happy to begin again here." After "Lost Dreams," she joked, "If you've lost one, you can find. There's a box out in the lobby. Just pick up a new one."
She described the mercurial "Any Party" as a "modern love song," and as she got the audience to sing along during "A Man Is Not His Song" she amusingly changed the words to: "You're eventually gonna leave here with someone, so who's that person gonna be?"
"Oh my god, I'm just making this up," she laughed. She then mentioned that local amateur group Choir Choir Choir is on that track and asked if anyone was here from there. "They're at a choir choir choir practice," she quipped. When she got some woos back, she milked it: "Can I get a few unbridled woos?" Everyone obliged, then she asked them to be sent to each of her bandmates.
She dedicated "The Wind" to The Group of Seven, the famed Canadian landscape painters of the early 1900s. "You figured it all out a century before I did," she said. And for the song with the name "Century" (on the album co-written and featuring Jarvis Cocker), she and the band had a few false starts. "It's been a few years, okay?" she apologized. "Oh yeah, I wrote it."
Feist then revealed she had asked her crew member for some whisky "so stuff's about to get serious," and a short while later had a mug in her hand.
If it was whisky, it went with "I'm Not Running Away," a cool, bluesy, smoky song in which she sings, "It got hard for me to believe in true love." The next song, "Young Up" - which she declared "we will now became a really wise teenager" - was also slow, mournful and bluesy.
And with that, Pleasure's final song, she threw her head back and smiled.
"Now I'm going to play some slightly tarnished golden oldies," she said, and for fun had the audience shout out requests. "You're supposed to say our memories were blinded by the new material. Just play it all again," she laughed.
"Just think of where you were in the spring of 2011. Let's go there for a second," she said, playing "A Commotion" then "Anti Pioneer" from Metals.
Then, as if just working out her set as she went, she asked if it was a good choice and threw out the titles "Sea Lion Woman" and "My Moon My Man." She played both, offering that they're like a freight train as they're coming to the end of the night. "Some quick executive decisions going on up here. In music this is what we call calling an audible, but football just took it from us."
She ended with "The Bad in Each Other" and squeezed in 2007's "I Feel It All."
And with that, the pleasure was all ours.