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An enchanting Monday evening in Manchester, thanks to the Multitudes tour.
Published: 15/09/2023  Photos + Author: Eleanor Osada

Not to sound like a broken record, but one thing that has been sorely missed - in at least a couple of years of solitude - is the presence of community. Less the phantom of the idea, something more tangible: the kind of unity that surges through the air. 

Music, the very sort of all-binding force, upswells and crashes like a tidal wave at Feist’s ‘Multitudes’ show.

Leslie Feist, Canadian singer-songwriter and daughter of two artists, is a relatively unsung legend in the music world. Once a part of indie rock hallmark, Broken Social Scene, she has been making solo music under the ‘Feist’ moniker for over two decades.

When directing people to something of hers they may be familiar with, a 2007 Apple commercial for the iPod Nano springs to mind. Showing off their new tech in the ad — almost like boasting the first technicolour picture — the music video for ‘1234’ bursts merrily on the iPod’s tiny screen.

The whimsy and light in those 30 or so seconds caught the imagination of most that heard it, and the song shot up the charts. The album that followed, the aching ‘The Reminder’, sold over a million copies.

Feist’s penchant for bittersweet storytelling has been a steady heartbeat for a further 15 years, with both a sorrow and a bite in all she composes. Releasing the stunning ‘Multitudes’ earlier this year, this supporting tour aims to both reconnect and capture the hearts of those in attendance.

Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse surprisingly isn’t at-capacity tonight, so it almost feels as if her show is a well-kept secret. Those that are lucky enough to know, know.

The lights dim, and the projected footage across the stage-wide screen begins to shake. A show of shoes, cables, floor - movement. It quickly becomes clear that this is live footage - at Leslie Feist’s hand. She works through the crowd, a small bright camera flash leading her path, closing in on tattoos, patterned shirts, more shoes.

She makes her way up onto what she later refers to as “a donut of song”, an ‘in-the-round’ stage at the end of a short walkway, donned simply with a few pedals - her, in a blue satin dress and armed with an acoustic guitar.

Like a lot of this show, it’s beautifully unconventional - being reminiscent of the ole’ acoustic breakaway moment that so many artists love to slip into mid-set. Pulling from all corners of her discography, she tears straight into the folky riffings of 2011’s ‘The Bad in Each Other’.

Feist’s set is interjected with stories — many set against the backdrop of Manchester, when she last toured here, a sizeable 12 years ago. She’s a gracious host, often asking the audience to bandy around thoughts, and to “share with the class” — everything delivered with impeccable timing and humour, plainly as good a conversationalist as she is a musician.   

She asks if any volunteer would be bold enough to adventure around and film the details of the night, so the back projection keeps momentum. A tall man raises his hand, and through the show he wanders around, front to back - focusing on the mesmeric quality of metal grids and the old brick of the venue, spliced with shots of Feist as they occasionally start to warp and duplicate.

It makes for something visceral - it’s not just run-of-the-mill stock footage, solid colour or a nothingness - it’s here and now, changing every single night, a synergy between the audio and the visual.

The night is tender especially in its interactions. Before the gorgeous, springlike ‘The Redwing’, Feist touches on the pandemic - particularly on how addicted she became to her phone - but insists that as the video cam makes its way around the crowd once again, we pull up pictures of what, or who, got us through that time.

Turning her back to watch the live footage at an enormous scale as she plays, people turn their phones to show dogs, cats, friends, children, clips from the great outdoors. It’s a real-time cinematic moment, with the perfect soundtrack to boot.

Feist’s voice has a fragility to it, an obvious vulnerability, yet an undeniable strength. Never does it waiver or weaken. In its duality — both her vocality and her music — there’s a fascination: an airiness, but an incredible weight.

More often than not, her leaning is acoustic, but the magnetic pull of Feist’s music is cosmic, fizzing and electric, sizzling just beyond the quiet. It’s noticeable in the way she live loops vocals, stomps on the floor, throws her head back to play a solo or belt a note.

Even in encounters with the audience - like segmenting the crowd to sing like a choir - sharp flashes of warmth illuminate the room. Engaging feels intrinsic, natural, as if we were plants being watered.  

For sake of not spoiling the surprises the show holds, it’s easier to summarise with the lasting feeling: gratitude. For experience, for connection, for togetherness. ‘Multitudes’ is a series of raw reflections on what makes us human.

Closing with ‘Love Who We Are Meant To’, a stark, heavyhearted song - Feist’s spellbinding two hour performance draws to a hushed end.

Afloat on the feeling, filtering out of the venue and onto the rain soaked street, we are all at once reminded that this life is shared, and about what we share with one another. In our coexistence lies our power.