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A few Wednesdays ago, Leslie Feist graced Jakarta with a concert that exceeded much of the expectations of Jakarta’s population of concert-going Feist fans. In fact, because of the extraordinary circumstances that unfolded on the night of February 15th, this particular concert post will take on a different format.
The evening gig was held in the SCBD‘s Fairgrounds, the re-purposed Bengkel Night Park of 1990’s fame. The dead-lock of the night rush hour was an opportunity for local motorcycle taxis (ojek) to cut corners in transporting all those converging to that point. Armed with my a large tote that carried a laptop and my camera, I found myself in a situation where I had avail myself of one of these… while wearing a maxi-dress, to boot. Based on the outcome of the evening, it was definitely worth the trouble, though I don’t see myself repeating the experience in the foreseeable future.
While waiting for the main event, Erlend Øye of Kings of Convenience regaled the audience with a brief setlist of several songs, one of which was in his native Norwegian. After he exited the stage, the audience moved slightly forward simultaneously, in anticipation for the main act. Two hours after the scheduled start of the concert, and several reminders of the venue’s ground rules, the celebrated member of the evening calmly walked out to meet the limelight.
Accompanying Leslie were Broken Social Scene’s Charles Spearin, as well as Amelia Randall, Meath Molly Erin Sarle, and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig of the interestingly named group, Mountain Man. The American singing trio have been on tour with her since late 2011. Their vocal showcase in the middle of the concert emphasised the haunting quality of their voices. Coupled with Leslie’s breezy vocals, together, they create a beautiful set of layered harmonies that give justice in the selected numbers off the Feist discography.
When I Was A Young Girl
Leslie took to the stage in Jakarta two days after her 36th birthday, but true-blue fans were not one to forget. Just after playing “I Feel It All”, a group of audience members facing directly in front of Feist shouted birthday greetings, and passed on a gift bag towards the stage. By the time Leslie retrieved her gift, the entire audience gone into song. Visibly moved, she opened the gift — which was a scarf — and tied it around her standing microphone for the duration of the evening.
Then, Leslie asked the audience if there was a birthday song specific to Indonesia only, because the another birthday to be celebrated was that of monitor engineer Tyler Scollon. The audience immediately responded with a collective rendition of the local version, “Selamat Ulang Tahun” (Translation: “Happy Birthday”). Admittedly, its quality could not warrant any performance time, but it the intent and heart behind it was so enthusiastically received by all those on Fairground’s stage that night, with visible smiles coming from the keyboardist, Spearin, the drummer, and Mountain Man alike.
Limit to Your Love
The concert crowd that night is probably one of the most assertive I’ve ever witnessed, and it encouraged a lot of interaction between Feist and her fans. In an effort to form vocal harmonies using the audience, Leslie divided the crowd, and assigned them a particular note. The left-most and middle area were given the two lowest notes, respectively, whereas the right-most and box seats in the back were given the higher two. However, the mere mention of the “comfortable” latter were greeted with a deluge of boos, to which Leslie reacted in laughter-filled protest. Whether or not the jeers were done in jest will remain a mystery.
The live rendition of “My Moon, My Man” is my favourite moment of the evening. The song, which is best known for its strong piano and careful vocals, shook from its base and adapted an anthem-like quality. The performance was so intense that the reverberation of the drums and swelling guitar riffs could be felt from the concrete floor of the night park.
Every now and then, a group of fans would shout, “1234!” and “Inside and Out!”, the names of the two songs that propelled Feist into the Jakarta musical spotlight. While the request was never granted, it did not result in too big of a dent in the overall experience of the gig. After a main set of sixteen songs, walked offstage amidst vocal protests of otherwise. Song requests evolved into requests for an encore, with the audience quickly unifying into a three-word chant: “We want more!”. Minutes later, the entire ensemble returned to cheers, and gave a rousing performance of “Sealion” and “Let It Die”.
Feist would return to the stage more than once. But much to the pleasant surprise of her fans, Erlend Øye, the man who introduced Leslie to the idea of coming to “the coolest city in Southeast Asia” — and the supposed “opening act” — emerges with her. Yes, those were Leslie’s own words. Before commencing the three-song final set, Øye introduces the first song by saying that it had only been played live nine times before, and it was ready to make its tenth appearance. Go figure, because what followed was the moving performance of Kings of Convenience’s “The Build-Up” — complete with its featured artist.
At the end of their final set, Øye lifted Leslie up in an embrace, their friendship and musical collaboration blessed by the audience’s cheers. One by one, the members left the stage, and so does dim hope of a third mini-setlist. The colourful stage spotlights are overshadowed by fluorescent white main bulbs, signalling the that event was truly over. Calmly, the crowd made their way out of the humid venue, some vocalising their wonderment over the appearance of certain songs. But one cannot deny the unusual circumstances of the gig. The multiple encores, the obvious interactions between performer and audience, and one half of Kings of Convenience and Feist performing on the same stage, do not easily come by during concerts. Each drop of sweat formed from the unbelievable evening heat became small but worthwhile sacrifice in exchange for an amazing rarity of a show.