Leslie Feist hobbled on the Mershon Auditorium stage last night with a cane, the victim of a nasty spill on an enthusiastic skipping spree. The injury had forced her to perform sitting down for the past few nights, but she was back on her feet and twice as engaging as most able-bodied musicians.
She didn't try any fancy choreography, but that didn't keep her from acting precious in a way endears and engulfs me. Whether making chitchat, rocking out or pouring her heart into one of the night's many ballads, she commanded attention from start to finish. Half the time the banter was as good as the music; Feist forced a comparison between Ohio and her home province of Alberta, sing-talked the crowd into being her choir and allowed a young man in the balcony to propose (she said yes!).
Because Feist is such a firecracker, she can get away with putting a show that, while fun, fails to captivate consistently. Like her recent album The Reminder, last night's set was too heavy on the slow stuff, even skipping over the upbeat "Past In Present," one of The Reminder's best, and converting fast-paced Let It Die songs into slow jams.
It's possible Feist stuck mostly to ballads because she can nail them without a hitch; short of the enduringly great "1 2 3 4," the quiet ruminations of "The Park" and "Limit To Your Love" were the night's highlights. Meanwhile, rockers like "I Feel It All" were more troublesome. That song wasn't as full and frenetic as on record, though the problem was mostly Feist's guitar, which seemed to be cutting out. The technical difficulties were an irritant on two fronts, distracting Feist and neutering the song of its rhythmic punch. "My Moon My Man" was, as on record, invigorating for a while but ultimately underwhelming.
The dearth of rockers was such that when the band played "Sea Lion Woman" and its somewhat grating "Sealion!" refrain for the encore, the outbreak of rock 'n' roll outweighed any ill will toward the song. Feist and her guitarist combined on a simple but powerful solo, tortured notes wrung out in style. Hearing her rock so successfully made the quiet setlist that much more of a disappointment. A coffeehouse vibe isn't necessarily bad, and many of Feist's fans probably prefer it, but when somebody can rock like that, they ought not to play so much hard to get. Instead, just play hard.