After several years of collaboration with a wide range of musical artists, Calgary-born singer-songwriter Leslie Feist has vaulted into the forefront of Canadian independent music, easily selling out the 1,000-person capacity Capital Music Hall.

I arrived too late to see opener Peter Elkas, though having caught a smaller show at Mavericks (a bar across the street from the Capital) I can vouch for his firm handle on the singer-songwriter form. The last few songs from Paso Mino - an outfit I had last seen providing sterling backing duties for folk-rocker Jason Collett at Ottawa’s Bluesfest in the summer of 2005 – sounded like hazy, fertile Americana and drew a good response from the packed hall.

It was nothing compared to the yell that went up when Feist herself– who goes by her last name these days – got on stage.

Feist has a diverse set of influences. Her first band, Placebo, had their start as an opening act for the Ramones. Since then she’s performed with Toronto rockers By Divine Right and Broken Social Scene. She’s roomed and recorded with smut-rapper Peaches and hip hop production ace Chilly Gonzales. She’s sung with the Kings of Convenience and Jane Birkin.

Her reputation-making sophomore album, 'Let It Die', was recorded in Paris. It blended chansons, bossa nova and indie rock, included songs by Francoise Hardy, the Bee Gees, Ron Sexsmith, among others, and a slew of originals. It subsequently snagged earned her two Junos – the Canadian equivalent of the Grammies – in 2005.

The result of this melting pot is the Left Bank’s answer to Kate Bush, a woman who can make a garage rock riff sound like a flamenco lick.

Her star has risen far in Canada, and there was a roar of approval when she bounded on stage wearing tight white slacks and matching shirt-jacket.

She performed her first song a cappella, singing into one microphone, looping the result and singing over it. She then picked up her Guild semi-hollowbody guitar for a more rocking tune before summoning her backing trio to flesh out her songs with a wide variety of instruments: Drums, vibraphone, French horn, bass, guitar and a small and cheesy synth gave her music a far more robust sound than it had on record,but her aching croon still conveyed their melancholy heart.

After a few tunes with her backing band, she sent them off and switched to a parlour acoustic for a few solo songs, including some from the album she intends to start recording in a month’s time.
Feist was an active stage presence; shaking her past-the-shoulders shaggy ‘do, swinging her guitar during her all-guns-blazing version of Sexsmith’s 'Secret Heart'; shadowboxing and miming tears while the audience sung the chorus to 'Fighting Back the Tears'. She also invited a couple up on stage to slow-dance, shushed some chatty show-goers during an encore of 'Intuition' and raised the roof with her cover of the Bee Gees’ 'Inside and Out'.

Her performance and the accompanying audience interaction went over as well as any show I’ve scene, and drew thunderous applause from a clearly satisfied crowd.













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