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FEIST @ MANCHESTER APOLLO 26/03/12 REVIEW BY PHIL KING

There was a strong rumour circulating the Apollo that ticket sales had fell far short of the three and a thousand people needed to fill the Apollo. It seems that only one thousand five hundred had been sold. Now on to her fourth CD Leslie Feist is a seasoned campaigner whose last visit to Manchester was a sell-out show of the Palace Theatre so it’s strange why people have chosen to stay away because on tonight’s showing Feist is an artist at the very top of her game.

The supporting act tonight is M.Ward. You may know him from his partnership with Zooey Deschanel in the rather brilliant She & Him, but tonight he flying solo with nothing but an acoustic and a harmonica to accompany his voice. He sets off with a fiery guitar instrumental that elicits whoops and hollers from the crowd before settling into a more downbeat and sedate groove. During his set we catch a first glimpse of all girls trio Mountain Man who lend there haunting voices to one of M.Ward more plaintive compositions which is the high point of his brief set. However it’s not all plain sailing because as always there’s a steady amplification of chatter that’s always an irritant when you’re trying to concentrate and enjoy somebody who’s working hard at trying to entertain audience. It can’t be too hard to just be quiet for half an hour.

The crowd certainly isn’t quiet when Feist steps foot on the Apollo stage. It’s surprising to see how tiny Feist is in the flesh. She’s surrounded by a plethora of band members and instruments and you’d think she’d be dwarfed on this crowded stage, but this petite woman has enough stage presence to keep all eyes on her. Tonight she opens her show with a stirring rendition of ‘Undiscovered First’ from her latest album ‘Metals’. In fact of the twelve tracks contained on that album, Feist will play all no less than eleven of them tonight.

It’s difficult not to like this young Canadian. In truth she doesn’t do much on the stage; the wildest she gets is to hammer out a fearsome fuzzed up guitar solo every so often. But this is an artist with real presence and not hard to see why she’s the star of this show. She’s also incredibly comfortable in front of an audience and is not afraid to engage in some between song banter. At one point Feist makes a joke about Manchester’s two warring football factions then commits a sacrilege by calling our national game soccer. But its obvious Feist knows exactly what she’s saying and everybody laughs along with the joke. However for some reason Feist has chosen to flash up a video of the show on a huge screen behind which for me was more a distraction because it was hard to stop the eye drifting away from the live action on the stage and up to the filmed version on the back wall. I’m not sure it worked. But I know the music did.

Yes it’s pretty and it’s polished, but there are intricacies and subtleties that set it apart from run of the mill pop. Tonight Feist and her band do the music proud and make a real joyous noise. But how strange is this? Quite possibly the most spine tingling moment of the night doesn’t involve Feist in any way. It’s when she leaves the stage to let those Mountain Man girls trill through a song that’s heavily laden with melancholy and sadness. I’m struggling to think of another artiste who would hand over the reins of their show to more-or-less unknowns.

Even though tonight’s show was shamefully far from a sell-out, you still have to applaud this wonderful performer because she still put everything into this performance and made it a special event for those that were there.  

Setlist:

Undiscovered First
A Commotion
Graveyard
How Come You Never Go There
Mushaboom
The Circle Married The Line
So Sorry
Anti-Pioneer
My Moon My Man
I Feel It All
Bittersweet Melodies
The Bad In Each Other
River [Performance by Mountain Man. Feist offstage throughout]
Comfort Me
Caught A Long Wind
Get It Wrong, Get It Right

Encore:

Past In Present
Sea Lion Woman
Sometimes Always (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover) (with M. Ward)
Let It Die

Review by Phil king
Photos by Shay Rowan