“Good evening wild animals of Minnesota!” yelled Leslie Feist, looking out at the full Minnesota Zoo amphitheater and growling playfully. It was the zoo’s first outdoor concert of the summer season, and served as a stellar way to kick off the Music in the Zoo series — over the next two hours, Feist played an engaging set that had the crowd singing along, laughing at her kooky stage banter, and otherwise hanging onto her every move.
Feist was joined by a pair of multi-instrumentalists, a drummer, and a trio of singers called Mountain Man who shared a single microphone and swayed as one. It didn’t take long for Feist to point out that one of those singers, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, was a Minnesota native, and for me to realize that I was sitting directly behind her family, who spent the entire evening proudly taking photos of her on their iPhones, and it made the whole experience quite endearing.
Alexandra Sauser Monnig (center) with Mountain Man
The set list pulled heavily from Feist’s new album, Metals, and included all but one of its tracks. The new, slightly heavier and more layered approach of the new material ended up bleeding into some of her older tracks as well. Early-career single “Mushaboom,” for example, sounded natural sandwiched between new songs “How Come You Never Go There?” and “The Circle Married the Line,” and each tune had its own opportunity for crowd interaction. Feist and Mountain Man took turns instructing the crowd to wave their arms, sing along with “oh-oh-ohs” and even approach the stage to sit cross-legged in the small patch of grass a few feet from the band. The emphasis throughout the evening was on breaking down the wall between performer and fan and uniting the entire theater; at one point, Feist even stole a fan’s iPhone while they were taking a video of her and placed it next to her on stage, leaving it running through the rest of the song and then dutifully returning it, while at another point she pulled a young girl from the crowd to hold a postcard of an owl in front of a video projector. The actual performances were executed so effortlessly that they almost seemed like afterthoughts at times — very well-oiled, powerful afterthoughts.
Feist sandwiched many of her best-known songs from The Reminder — “So Sorry,” “My Moon My Man,” “I Feel It All” — in the middle of the set before returning her focus to Metals. Notably, she did not perform her mainstream hit, “1234,” but did dramatically rework “The Limit to Your Love” with obvious inspiration from British electro artist James Blake. Many of the songs toward the end of her main set had dramatic, crashing outros, with Mountain Man pushing their voices to sound hard-edged and defiant and the band swelling into a dizzying cacophony.
The encore was a lengthy and sweet cool-down period, with Feist coming out with only the Mountain Man trio for “Cicadas and Gulls,” swelling one last time with a sing-along to “Sealion,” and giving her most emotive performance of the evening with “Let it Die.” Her second encore left her completely alone for a gripping rendition of “Intuition” that had the crowd softly singing along to the repeated line “Do I? Do I?” but otherwise holding their breaths, and the beauty of the performance combined with the eerily perfect weather sent everyone out into the night in a happy daze.
I should also note that the evening opened with a performance by the Low Anthem, who called on unusual instrumentation (a petite pump organ, a hammered dulcimer) to craft their Americana-influenced indie rock. After a few songs I found their performance to be quite repetitive and not nearly as engaging as the main act.
How Come You Never Go There?
The Circle Married the Line
My Moon My Man
I Feel it All
The Limit to Your Love
The Bad in Each Other
Caught a Long Wind
Get it Wrong, Get it Right
Cicadas and Gulls (solo with Mountain Man choir)
Let it Die