If she had wanted it, Leslie Feist could have easily snagged the indie-pop princess crown. Her quadruple-Grammy-nominated 2007 album, “The Reminder,” boasted catchy tunes such as “1234” and “My Moon Man” that sold countless iPods and taught kids how to count along with Elmo. But instead of cashing in on that success, Feist took time off to regroup and rejuvenate, and returned with “Metals,” a thoughtful, introspective collection of songs that showcases her smoky, honey- tinged voice and complex musicianship, proving she’d rather be a serious artist than a pop confection.
Now four albums into her career, Feist has amassed loyal fans and admirers, many of whom exhibited their lively spirit from the moment she took the stage at the sold-out Wiltern. Kicking off with the haunting “Undiscovered First” from the new album, Feist, who was backed by a three-piece band and a trio of talented female singers, seemed completely at ease and in her element. She jovially bantered with the crowd, encouraging them to blow on a conch shell she passed around, and teasing Los Angelenos about being too cool to sing along.
The band segued into “A Commotion,” which proved that Feist and her band can get as loud and rowdy as the hardest rock band, only to turn on a dime and head in a quieter direction. During the two-hour set, Feist performed nearly every track off of “Metals,” and played only a smattering of her earlier material. She interestingly chose to re- orchestrate familiar tunes such as “Mushaboom” and “So Sorry,” taking them in a darker, less poppy direction that rendered them almost unrecognizable. She obviously had no intention of pandering to the crowd.
A highlight of the evening came when Feist surrendered the spotlight to her back-up singers, the female folk trio Mountain Man, who delivered an a capella tune with such gorgeous harmonies that they managed to silence the rowdy bar-goers at the back of the venue and elicit whoops and hollers from the crowd. Hearing what they were capable of made it all the more impressive that Feist’s voice is such a finely tuned instrument that she can command these wailing sirens for her own aims.
The evening culminated with a five-song encore, which included a moving performance of “Metals'” final track “Cicadas and Gulls,” featuring nothing but Feist, her back-up singers and an acoustic guitar, and “Feel It All,” the danciest, most feel-good tune of the night, especially given that “1234” was notably absent from the proceedings. Her frequent collaborator and opening act, Chilly Gonzales, joined her on piano for a final number, “Limit To Your Love.” Before saying goodnight, Feist hopped atop the piano and surveyed the adoring crowd, who seemed ready and willing to follow her to new heights.