"On a scale of one to 10, how much do you feel?” Canadian singer-songwriter Feist (Leslie Feist to her friends) asked the bigger-than-I-expected throng at the Coachella Outdoor Stage. “Anybody a five?” A few hands popped up. “Anybody... all of it?" Me! Me! Over here! Me! Over here!
I wasn't alone.
It’d be hard not to feel her set. In fact, you’d probably have to be in a desensitization chamber. The sometime Broken Social Scenester connected on all levels, particularly with tracks from her latest album, Metals—one of my favorites from last year. And she had help from a massive band—three backup singers, a six-piece brass section, eight-piece string section and a four-piece band, including BSS’ axeman Charles Spearin—to make sure it connected, and it connected hard.
"A Commotion," a song that mimics its title with unhinged percussion and orchestral swells, was particularly powerful. So was Metals’ first single, the lulling, blues-y “How Come You Never Go There,” and the LP’s opener, “The Bad in Each Other”; on the former, the band put extra ooomph on the backbeat and piano interplay, so it stomped; the latter pounded with marshal orchestral drumming.
It was uncanny to see such an emotionally evocative yet hefty sound fronted by a waifish female songwriter. She sashayed in a cute tie-dye tank top and glittery orange-red skirt, and puckered her lipstick lips. She was elegant but in stern control, a harbinger of her sound, and at times she handled her electric guitar like a star, bashing it around on solos. This was all supported by the rhythms and mournful strings that anchor Metals.
“Let’s call them… The Best Orchestra We’ve Ever Play With,” Feist joked when introducing the company that joined her onstage. “I guess they need a name. The Desert Orchestra? How about the We All Took Acid Before the Show Orchestra?” She paused, then chuckled. “That's why they're so heavy!”
The show's undeniable high-water mark came during “Anti-Pioneer.” It’s one of Feist’s more impressive vocal takes on all of Metals. She winds and weaves like a chirping bird, interchanging lyrics with melodious ohhhs and ahhhs. Midway through the song, Feist and her three female backup singers united in a one-note vocal symphony. She stepped back from the mic, letting her voice spread out over the Polo Fields. She cocked her neck back, like she was looking at the stars, closed her eyes and continued singing about the power of colors on mood. It was like we were given special access to Feist, singing alone in the shower or in her bedroom. It’s one of the few Coachella moments I’ll forever remember. It was beyond intimate, even with 30,000 people, many of whom hollered in approval at catching Feist in such a personal, telling musical moment.
Coachella was definitely feeling that.