Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Off on a Tangent, part 14: Leslie Feist, Albert Hall, 21st May 2008.

Leslie Feist wanders out onto the stage at the Royal Albert Hall and, faced with 5000 pairs of eyes staring back at her, says: “Oh my god.” And she’s right as well: this isn’t 93 Feet East or the Scala, and no doubt you could cram about a thousand Komedias into this cavernous bit of Victorian silliness. Last time I saw Feist, I was surrounded by about a hundred and fifty fellow hipsters and Alexis Petridis: you could reach out and shake Feist’s hand if you wanted to. Tonight, it’s totally different: 1234 has seen to that. Funny what can happen in a little over twelve months, that iPod advert notwithstanding.

The music veers from infectious indie joy to plaintive solo folk, although having to extend the set to a good 100 minutes does provide for the odd bit of banter that doesn’t really work: an audience hum-a-long falls flat, and some of Feist’s asides are just plain cryptic. In a smaller venue where everything is up close and personal, you can get away with this sort of unforced, eccentric charm. In a venue like the Albert Hall, it just sounds demented.

That said, Feist has obviously had to make some concessions in playing for a large audience, and the most noticeable is the completely berserk shadow show (I kid you not). Two ‘shadow assistants’ create an ever-changing panorama of volcanoes, ships at sea, birds and foliage that are projected behind the band as they do their thing. At one stage, someone climbs a stepladder behind Feist and throws torn up paper everywhere (it’s snowing, see?). Not exactly stadium rattling stuff, but we’re not talking Iron Maiden here: the visuals are great, and are done with a huge amount of lo-fi charm.

Only two things bring a slight downer on proceedings: 1) whoever they were, the support band were utterly dreadful. All I know about them is that they come from New Zealand, and that’s really all I want to know, and 2) a surprising lack of hipsters in the audience. I mean, good god, people were even dancing in the aisles! Whatever next? ;-)

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