Sunday, May 6, 2012

What’s Bothering Feist?

I love Feist and have since I first heard her/them on a television show BEFORE the explosion of that Apple iPod ad …

”Hey MOM!” my daughter hollered, “here’s that singer you pointed out the other night!” when first viewing that ad on TV.  And then Feist's upbeat song  “1234” was everywhere for a long time.  When I got her CD, song after song, it was heaven to my ears.  Now years later, I was getting a chance to see her live.

Truth-be-told, we’re at an age when we don’t often go out to a concert in a neighboring city at 8pm on a “school night,” but I came to her concert exuberant and my husband was looking forward to seeing her, too.

The audience there was completely enthralled with Feist.  They knew the songs, the lyrics, and we loved hearing her sing.  We were sitting next to a pair of 23-yr olds who were Feist fans.  I kept being surprised that the hall wasn't sold out — there were tiers of empty seats.

On stage Feist admitted she had drifted through the auditorium while the warm-up band (Timber Timber) was playing, listening to their music, and scoping the joint.  The empty seats seemed to bother her.  Though not packed, the folks there were the devoted.  

Best photo I could manage
From the get-go, Feist let us know she really wasn’t happy being there.  Initially, there were sweet parts between audience and performer [“We love you Lesley!!!” Feist’s real name — though I only think of her as Feist] shouted from the rafters and she smilingly turned around and said in reply, “That was nice,”  but as the night went on, she made it known that she was in some angst.

During her talk with the audience while the band was tuning up, she told us repeatedly that she wasn't feeling connected — saying things like, “You’re out there and I’m up here. I wish I could be with you. Shakespeare called it, 'the fourth wall' and that’s what he meant. There's this wall between us.”

So we called out, clapped, shouted, hooted, and howled to establish a connection and to let her know how much we loved what she was doing.

Everyone yelled out words of encouragement and pleasure at hearing her sing.  But oddly, the large screen image on stage, projected behind the band, never showed her face — not once. Her guitar, her hands playing, a back-view of her on stage, but not her face. It seemed she wanted to stay distant — she didn't want to be seen.

Her music was terrific; some of the songs were arranged with a completely different beat, and she did engage us by asking us to sing with her or for her once in awhile.  I just couldn't understand why she wasn't happier at the adulation she was getting.  

Nor could I understand why Whitney Houston, who had every success, couldn't have a life of happiness and joy.  Perhaps I really don’t understand what it’s like to be a creative performer, an artist that lives that life.  Feist may have tried to explain when she said to the auditorium,

“You don't understand.  It’s like I’m scuba diving 30,000 feet under the water and you’re screaming at me from the surface. I can’t hear you.”

After she was done she quickly exited the stage and when she returned for an encore set, again you could tell it was reluctantly. She did a number with Mountain Man and then called the band back on stage and did "Sealion" but at the close, as she wound up the night, her conversation was even a little mean. 

“Do you realize I just wasted two f*k*g hours here?”

At that, the crowd did gasp some. My husband worried about the guy who was in the next section with his 11 or 12 year-old daughter.  I worried about Feist.

It was hard for me to write this — I so admire her talent! Besides her incredible voice and phrasing, she writes these amazing lyrics.  Some of the lines are devastating to me. On her album The Reminder she has a song called "Intuition" and deep into the song she sings:

“And it’s impossible to tell
How important someone was
And what you might have missed out on
And how you might have changed it all..."

And then over and over, she intones,

“Did I? Did I?’ 
“Did I, did I?”  

and when you first hear this you think, “Did I what?" but we don't find out yet. She repeats this verse ten times and you’re thinking, "When is she going to say what she’s gonna say?” but she still doesn't.  Then she's singing back-and-forth with her singers who join inechoing her like a childlike-Greek chorus —  “Did I? Did I?”  and finally, finally — after 22 "Did I?s"  — she wistfully sings, 

“Miss out…” a line of both exposure and closure.  

When I listen to "Intuition," it makes me cry it’s so beautiful; it seems magnificently simple and pure.  The Greek chorus gives it that touch of tragedy and that "Did I?" repetition reflects the way in which, we all mentally torture and doubt ourselves again and again on some past decision. Everyone knows what that feels like.  Feist is just able to brilliantly capture it in words. 

Her music is that way, song after song.  In another favorite from Metals (her latest album and the bulk of the concert), she touches me with “The Circle Married the Line” which may be her description of the sun meeting the horizon or rising above it, but for us, seems to capture our relationship. (I think he’s the circle and I’m the line — he thinks the reverse.)

In spite of it all, I loved hearing her and her three female stage companions  (with beautifully harmonic voices who for some unknown reason call themselves “ Mountain Man”) but try as I might to give her leeway (it must be tiring doing the same thing over and over, frustrating to have to live one's life on tour) and make every excuse possible (maybe she was upset that the performance wasn’t sold out or maybe she was ill and feeling sick), some of that exchange was downright rude and very disappointing. 

It certainly was not what I expected of this woman I had come to admire and revere through her music, and certainly not what those of us who were there to hear her deserved.  What were that father and daughter thinking when they left?  I left thinking how empty she must feel and how sad she must be to have behaved in such a manner.


  1. This captures my experience of the event as well. Art will hold still, let us find & attach meaning, but artists will not. Sometimes they even get nasty towards the very people who most love and support them the most. Oh well, I guess that's what families are for. - Line -

    1. and even families have their nasty moments...! thanks scott

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  3. Marjorie GeorgeMay 7, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    This is fascinating, Denise. I appreciate your honest reflection on this concert. When Michael Jackson died, I wondered what role we, his fans, played in his troubled life--I suspect more than we might realize. We set up strange relationships rooted in adulation with all kinds of performers and "stars," which perhaps end up hurtful in ways we don't intend or fully understand. Thanks for writing this.

    1. It certainly is an odd partnership...thank YOU for commenting Marge.