Feist Shed Tears in Toronto — and Not Because of the Heckler

Massey Hall, March 3

Photo: Chris Gee

BY Alex HudsonPublished Mar 4, 2024

"The razor's edge" is a phrase Feist frequently invoked during the final stop of her Multitudes tour— a term to describe the precarious nature of the multimedia show, which combines hushed acoustic performances, technological trickery and audience involvement in such a way that she constantly runs the risk of disaster. It's a tricky balance that sometimes brought about stunning moments of transcendence, but also resulted in some intensely uncomfortable miscues and technical issues.

Having launched Multitudes in the depths of lockdown, well before her 2023 album of the same name, she has since toured it for nearly three years, with this stop at Massey Hall being the final destination. She performed in the round, as she always does with Multitudes, with Massey's floor seats cleared out and a small elevated stage in the centre of the floor.

Small technical blunders began even before Feist took the stage: the phone camera that sent video to the on-stage screen was laggy, and it kept freezing while documenting the artist's backstage journey to the front. But it was no biggie, as she soon stuck the camera on her mic stand and launched into a few acoustic numbers.

For a show that Feist has already performed so many times, it was remarkably raw and emotional. By the second song, the cute domestic ditty "Mushaboom," she was already shedding a few tears, choking up as she paused to point out that the lyric about "the babies haven't been born" is no longer true, since she welcomed her daughter during the pandemic.

She continued to break down barriers between performer and audience, asking for song requests on just the third song. Perhaps inevitably, this led to shouts of "1234," which she (sort of) obliged by launching a radically rearranged version that was stripped way down, full of pauses and vocal runs that rendered it almost unrecognizable.

Unfortunately, the dismantling of boundaries proved to be too much for one fan up front, who used Massey Hall's famously great acoustics as a way to project their own voice, turning the song into a duet between Feist and fan — never mind that this fan didn't know the melody or arrangement of this new version, and the competing melodies clashed terribly.

Feist found moments of magic when she handed her phone camera off to a helpful fan identified as "Luke." With the camera feed still projected onto the main screen, Luke took the camera around the venue and created dizzying mirroring effects by filming Feist in front of her own video image on screen. The alchemical mix of emotion and artifice struck gold during "Become the Earth," when Feist broke down sobbing while speaking about death, accepting tissues from a fan to blow her nose and wipe away the tears pouring down her cheeks. The song featured a surprise choir in the balcony (as far I can could tell — I couldn't see them from where I was sitting) and the night's most jaw-dropping piece of camera wizardry (which I won't reveal here, for the benefit of anyone going to tonight's encore performance).

It was a haunting, emotionally wrenching outpouring of emotion. But there wasn't much time to sit in that feeling, since the fan from earlier (the same one who sang overtop of "1234") repeatedly cut off Feist to scream that their birthday was only one day away from the artist's. At one point, Feist requested a "quietening" (a polite way to say "shut the fuck up"), but this only seemed to encourage the fan to treat the intimate performance as a dialogue. It curiously blurred the line between fan worship and full-blown heckling, with the fan seemingly happy to bring the show grinding to a halt — turning the night into a squirming, difficult-to-sit-through display of "main character syndrome."

That part thankfully improved during the second phase of the show, when Feist left her small stage to join her full band for a more traditional performance. But even here, in a typical concert setup, the show ran into issues, with a guitar tech repeatedly scurrying out on stage to fiddle with the pedals and cables at Feist's feet. The performer joked about it, leading the crowd in chanting "Anna! Anna! Anna!" for the hard-working tech — but, let's face it, if the audience gets to know a guitar tech on a first-name basis, that’s probably not a great sign for how the show’s going.

Even if it had gone well, the backlit visuals and straightforward rock band setup felt like a comedown after the uniqueness of the first half. Upbeat, pop-friendly numbers like "My Moon My Man" and "I Feel It All" sounded great, but lacked the "razor’s edge" tension that made the first half so unforgettable, for better and for worse.

Closing out with Feist's well-intentioned but bungled land acknowledgement, it was a messy way to end a tour that, after a few years on the road, one would expect Feist to have down to a science.

In the throes of the pandemic, Multitudes went off with a pindrop sense of reverence, but in this more boisterous post-lockdown environment, in which crowds have been notoriously badly behaved, not everyone in the crowd seemed willing to buy in.

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