at Portland's Doug Fir Lounge
nothing and you won't be disappointed. That's always good advice
in concertgoing and in life.
It Die, the 2005 U.S. version: a delicate, frothy joyride.
Yet tamping down expectations isn't always easy. And
when Leslie Feist came to Portland's Doug Fir Lounge last month,
the temptation toward great expectations combined musical anticipation
along with something closer to a blind-date vibe.
That's partly because Feist's recent CD, Let It
Die, is so easy to like. But also, even though the disc has
spent more time between my ears than any other this year, prior
commitments made me miss her last two trips through town.
So when she returned a third time although
I had to work at five the next morning something was pulling
Oh sure, blind dating has been redefined for the electronic
age. And these days one prepares by surfing and downloading all
kinds of things. Still, nothing can ever compare to that goose-bump
moment when an object of throttled expectations enters the room
and blows any preconceived notions away.
Feist did exactly that by starting out alone with
electric guitar and sounding more like PJ Harvey or Kurt Cobain
than the delicate, frothy joyride that makes up her album.
Then, despite self-proclaimed shyness, she engaged
a roomful of admirers gently coaxing them into humming and
whistling the missing parts from her album while slashing away at
her six-string, singing like a saint and telling little stories
about stolen chords, learning guitar parts by phone and the songwriting
brothers Gibb all from inside of a snappy black dress.
Add to that a signature vocal quirk: Feist has a habit
of straining to reach an occasional note but always ends up landing
on the dime. That's probably the byproduct of a voice injury she
endured some time back; nevertheless, it's among her seemingly endless
Toward the show's middle, drums and a second guitar
joined in. It was, according to Feist, their first of many performances
together and the trio added unexpected textures without bogging
things down. She finished up solo and the evening never lost its
It Die, the 2004 Canadian version: a Juno award winner.
Feist, who goes by her last name, has a long and colorful
résumé, especially for someone not yet 30: Broken
Social Scene, Kings of Convenience, Apostle of Hustle, Chilly Gonzales.
A previous solo album (Monarch, 1999). A punk band. Former
roommates with the bawdy avant-garde electronica songstress known
And, during a tour of duty in Paris, 2002-03, Feist
recorded Let It Die. The album was released in her Canadian
homeland last year and won two Junos (the Canadian Grammy) in April:
best new artist and best alternative album (beating out the Arcade
Fire, A.C. Newman and Stars).
Let It Die finally arrived stateside that same
month but has yet to take flight.
The remake of Ron Sexton's "Secret Heart"
is a subtle wonder, as is a rendition of a song recorded by Blossom
Dearie in 1956, "Now at Last." Feist's bubbling, bass-heavy
cover of the Bee Gees' 1979 dance-floor smash, "Inside and
Out," could easily cascade out of coast-to-coast convertibles
for many summers to come. By some accounts that's already happened
in Europe and Canada.
But the fact that her originals are on a perfect par
is even more impressive.
"In the meantime I got it hard, second-floor
living without a yard," she sings in "Mushaboom,"
sounding like the intriguingly self-aware girl next door. "It
may be years until the day my dreams will match up with my pay."
Such command of darkness and light is exactly what
gives Feist's persona a rarified air. Yet music, like blind dating,
is a two-way street. And time spent with Feist eventually leads
to the doorstep of dating's Holy Grail. In other words, if chemistry
is lacking it isn't Feist's fault.
Which leads to that ever-present blind-date question:
Would I like to see her again?
Yes. Yes! A thousand times yes!
Or, better yet: Um, that might be nice.
the 1999 solo debut.
Because sometimes it's better not to let on. This
is, after all, tripewriter's fourth mention of Feist this year (1,
Meanwhile, as she continues on an endless string
of dates in a series of far-flung cities, I'm certain she'll find
a way to let me know if and when she returns. The future of the
relationship is totally up to her.
That doesn't really sound so bad. Because we'll always
have Let It Die.
Besides, it's all just a matter of managing expectations.