Honestly, what can I even say about what happened at First Avenue’s storied Mailroom last night? How do you really convey the way an artist grows into their best version over time? The growth as a performer? The positive, confident, and playful energy that Leslie Feist has honed over the last six years?
All I can say is “Wow.”
It’s been a while since Feist has turned up in Minnesota for a headlining show. With this year’s release of Multitudes, it was inevitable that we would see a tour from the indie legend. Luckily we made the cut on the 14-date North American tour.
This tour and album were inspired by socially distant “in the round” shows that she put on throughout 2021 and 2022. She partnered with Media artist Colby Richardson, visual artist Heather Goodchild, and Mary Hickson to create an immersive experience unlike any I’ve had. Even staff at the club were abuzz about what these talented folks had put together for us. It was quite mysterious.
I walked into the Mailroom to its famous checkered floor hosting a small round stage in the center. The main stage was covered by a screen projecting a still and obscure image. Any spot in the club was a great view. It was fun to watch even the most seasoned concert-goers choose their spot in the room for the night. So. Much. Strategy.
As the room darkened, the image on the screen shifted. It began to show red boots walking from above the same checkered pattern. After a while, Feist appeared in the crowd among the fans – weaving her way through and focusing the camera on audience details like tattoos, shirts, jewelry; anything that she found interesting. She spiraled around the crowd and made her way onto the round stage to start the show to thunderous applause. Minneapolis was ready. She set up the camera with someone from her team to continue filming throughout the night for the projections and went right to work on her performance with “Century.”
The beginning of the set was in the center of the crowd and completely on acoustic guitar. It felt richer than a simple acoustic set, though. There was a poetry reading, fun conversation, call and response, and effects pedals. Extra speakers were suspended around the room that immersed the audience in her broken-up backing harmonies to feel like a choir around you. It was easy to get lost in the visuals and sound as she moved around her pedestal in front of the changing backdrop.
Songs like “Gatekeeper,” “Mushaboom,” “Intuition,” and “The Bad in Each Other” took us on a journey through Feist’s reality. She blurred the lines between what was real and what wasn’t with a few antics in the show. I don’t want to give too much away since we are only on day three of the tour. All in all, this portion of the show felt truly special. It was an experience you’d want from any of your favorite artists.
Feist’s artistry truly shined through and showed off her lyrical strengths. There are few artists I can think of with a “woodwind” voice. When she loops and layers harmonies it can feel like you’re surrounded by delicate clarinets, oboes, and alto saxophones. She controls her voice so astonishingly. I think everyone truly knew how lucky they were to be there. I think that she felt that, too.
Nine songs into the show, she hopped off her little stage and worked her way through the crowd to the main stage – stopping to smile and interact with people on the way with her camera assistant in tow. There was a small B-stage waiting for her in front of the screen. It was there that the screen dropped for the big reveal.
Her four-piece band was suddenly behind her with bright lights and blazing drum beats. A large mirrorball hung from stage right. It was truly an epic unveiling. More epic? Her choice for the next song. “The Commotion” is from her 2012 collaboration 7” with Mastodon. Her fierceness on stage rose to an entirely new level for this second half. Her band was switching between many instruments for each song.
“Become The Earth” was the pinnacle of the performance for me. The sound design made the audio feel like it was floating around me. It was simultaneously intense and delicate. “In Lightning” and “Sea Lion Woman” were driving forces between mainstays like “My Moon Man” and “I Feel It All.”
A new arrangement of her classic “1234” closed out the emotional waves of the 20-song set. She composed her harmonies one by one until the fragments made a composition that was fresh and familiar. The curtain dropped in front of them with a bright backlight as they waved goodbye.
Of course, we know that when one main performance ends, there is likely to be an encore. “Of Womankind” was delicately performed as she wandered the crowd with a green screen shawl. She disappeared in it on the screen as cascading snapshots fell over her on the projections. It was hard to choose where to focus – on the screen, or the artist at eye level in front of us. Audience members helped her hold it and create the visuals. It was uniquely collaborative.
“Love Who We’re Meant To” was carried out on the smaller stage in front of the curtain. It was so intimate as the backdrop showed huge projections of Feist’s handwritten words on the pages of her notebook over her. As it ended, she brought out her band and took a final bow.
She showed so much gratitude to her team and to the crowd for making this conceptual art piece a reality. She was entirely humble throughout, sometimes even meek as she worked through parts of the performance, but her musicianship and voice never wavered. It was balanced, fresh, and meaningful. It is something I will never forget.