Only an idiot goes to the Royal Albert Hall prepared for disappointment. It’s commonly known that mediocre performers wither and die within seconds of taking the stage, so booking anything other than overwhelming brilliance for this auspicious space is tantamount to murder.
M. Ward didn’t die, not even a little bit. Dwarfed by the dormant drums, bells and whistles which awaited Feist and her mega-band, he came alone and left alone, a tiny, intensely focussed pinprick of light in the enormous space of the hall. His set felt cruelly short, floating efficiently and modestly from highlight to relentless highlight.
His delicate reworking of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, stripped entirely of its camp credentials, was altogether more mournful than seemed reasonable. Revived as a breathy musing on fragility, this 1983 dance floor classic took on a fleeting, brittle beauty (it’s also on the soundtrack for the rather good Eagle vs. Shark, in case you’re in the market for a film recommendation, too).
The blighter executed a super-cool exit without warning, tricking the audience into comfortable enjoyment with a looping pedal before raising his arms above his head and striding offstage still wearing his guitar. FFS would’ve been disappointed had we not been so wholeheartedly impressed.
And then, Feist arrived with entirely unshabby backing singers in the form of Mountain Man, to fill old Albert’s hall with rapturous astonishment. Opening with a blasting performance of ‘Undiscovered First’, the vastness of scope through lightshow, abstract on-screen projections and sheer power were unmissable. The energy expended in this beginning was almost monstrous in its huge, stomping scope, but the perpetual brilliance of the ensuing hours proved that Feist was more than up for the marathon.
Each song was lent its own particular visual identity through the impeccable light show and carefully tailored projections, all of which added immeasurably to the live experience, dovetailing easily with the rest of the show.
Big-ticket track ‘Mushaboom’ was always going to be a crowd-pleaser, but the high-octane reworking gave this often overplayed song a cool new makeover, resisting anything approaching the predictable. Naturally.
The whole damn show was absolutely astonishing, and had to try to end twice before it actually did. Both encores felt intimate in spite of the space, and the choice to invite “all the lovers” on stage to slow dance to ‘Let it Die’ was inspired. Leslie was so surrounded by people at the end that she had to hug her way off the stage, only to come flying on back for more. This show was too big for any words to describe, so all we can do is advise you to start saving up for this lady’s next show, which will presumably take place on the moon.