YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


There's pretty, then there's power

Leslie Feist turns on the energy at the Wiltern, where the crowd enjoys watching her star rise.

July 02, 2007|Ann Powers | Times Staff Writer

Red dress, red stockings, red guitar: Leslie Feist was dressed for conquest Friday at the Wiltern, on the final night of a long North American tour. The Canadian singer-songwriter, whose third album, "The Reminder," has taken her career from the sprouting stage to full flower, showed no anxiety or bashfulness leading her all-male band through a crowd-pleasing set; this was her victory lap, and she welcomed everyone along.

Feist, who records under her surname only, is basking in that universally lovable quality that sometimes surfaces in rising stars: Her self-esteem glows outward, making everyone else in the room feel good about themselves. Feist's new album followed the quiet craft of her 2004 breakthrough, "Let It Die," and it's proved that Feist will not confine herself to chic prettiness. With its wide palette and jubilant straightforwardness, "The Reminder" is a bit like Carole King's "Tapestry," though more modest and with fewer immortal hooks.

At the Wiltern, Feist and her expert but humble band stressed the energy and fun of her music -- sprightly rockers "1234" and "My Moon My Man" became sharper and brighter, and melancholy ballads steered clear of mawkishness. Instruments including glockenspiel and muted trumpet were prominently featured, but Feist also used effects pedals to loop her voice or guitar, and a ton of reverb enhanced her vocals, especially when she stood on the piano to sing "Lover's Spit," a song by her former band Broken Social Scene, accompanied by that band's co-founder Kevin Drew.

Feist's voice, even more than the average singer's, is the wellspring of her appeal. Her alto sounds a bit like that muted trumpet -- it's a gleaming but slightly subdued sound, stemming in part from damage her vocal cords sustained when she was a teenage punk singer.

At the Wiltern, her most spine-tingling vocal moments recalled singers as diverse as Nicolette Larson and Youssou N'Dour without seeming derivative.

That beautiful, dented instrument can also be Feist's downfall. Something about her diction makes her words difficult to understand, and the undertow of her gentle vibrato can lull a listener away from attentiveness. She's growing exponentially but needs to keep pushing herself beyond the prettiness so accessible to her.

This night, however, was for relaxing. At set's end, as Drew and opening act Grizzly Bear joined in a ragged chorus of the Nina Simone favorite "See Line Woman" (retitled "Sealion" on "The Reminder"), Feist bopped and shimmied in sweet abandon. A woman dressed in red singing about a woman dressed in red, she vaulted into her own mythology.

Los Angeles Times Articles