Feist and the Low Anthem at the Minnesota Zoo, 6/2/12

Feist and the Low Anthem
Weesner Family Amphitheater, Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley
June 2, 2012

Feist kicked off the 20th season of Music In the Zoo in grand fashion on Saturday night, delivering a two-hour set that spotlighted not only her deft guitar playing and insightful songwriting, but also her easy affability and effortless charm. Feist's generous 22-song performance touched on all phases of her career, but audaciously not her breakout hit, "1234," which went unplayed but wasn't missed by many.

No one in the sold-out audience could really complain about either the performance from the Canadian songstress or the truly gorgeous summer evening at the Zoo, which formed a glorious combination that elevated the performance and sent everyone home happy.

Feist brought a talented three-piece backing band along with her, as well as the all-female trio, Mountain Man, who served as her backing vocalists throughout the night. She remarked that she knew she wasn't in St. Paul or Minneapolis, and knew the city had Valley in the name, but playfully wondered exactly where she was. But once she became settled in, and invited a portion of the crowd to come and sit on the grassy area in front of the stage, Feist seemed right at home, and the natural performer in her simply shined.

The show started with a slow-burning version of "Comfort Me," which at first just featured Feist and her keyboardist, before the rest of the band joined her as the song took flight. A lively rendition of "A Commotion," was followed by a lengthy, moody instrumental intro, which Feist claimed was a sound they stole from the dinosaur enclosure. "This is what it sounds like at midnight in there." That eventually gave way to "How Come You Never Go There," which was given extra teeth in a live setting due to Feist's lively guitar work.

She then checked with the crowd to make sure it was indeed Saturday night, joking that "For a rock band, every day is Saturday." A reworked, tribal version of "Mushaboom" was one of the early set highlights, and Feist and her band clearly brought an added edge to the track after years of performing it live. One of her backup singers, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig is from Minneapolis, so Feist took a moment to shine the spotlight on her and introduce her proud parents, whom Alexandra sheepishly said hi to from stage. It was a lovely moment in a night filled with plenty of them.

A rollicking, electric version of "My Moon, My Man," got most of the crowd up dancing, after which Feist made mention of the day's transformation into night. "As I predicted, the sun is going down, and things are getting a little more sinister, and a little less rosy picnic. But let's play a happy song anyway." A jubilant version of "I Feel It All" followed, and got even more of the relaxed and restrained Minnesota crowd dancing. Feist made another mention of the surroundings while introducing a haunting, deeply evocative version of "Pine Moon," saying, "There's a strange convergence here of a black lake and the full moon that you'll hear over the course of the next four minutes."

Feist boldly took back "The Limit To Your Love" from James Blake, as she and her band delivered an emphatic, experimental rendition of the soulful number, adding many vocal flourishes and a driving drumbeat that sent the song soaring. As the sun gradually set, the visuals on the backdrop behind the band got more pronounced and intricate. Feist held up a picture of an owl later in the show, saying "I made a new friend today." She then picked a young girl, who was dancing joyously up by the stage throughout the show, to hold the owl picture in front of one of the cameras used for the backdrop, which added a nice touch to an atmospheric rendition of "Caught A Light Wind," and certainly made that girl's night.

The four ladies all formed soaring harmonies for the lovely main set closer, "Get It Wrong, Get It Right," and that sense of camaraderie carried over into the first song of the encore, "Cicadas And Gulls," which featured just the four of them singing along over Feist's muted guitar. The rest of the group joined them for a funky and forceful version of "Sealion," Feist's emphatic reworking of Nina Simone's "See-Line Woman."

Feist and the Low Anthem at the Minnesota Zoo, 6/2/12
Photo by Erik Hess

The first encore ended with a tender, touching version of "Let It Die," which found Feist leading the song solo on her guitar at first, while the rest of the band danced together at the side of the stage, obviously sharing a moment before they helped guide the song home. The applause didn't die down long after the band left the stage, so Feist came back out for a solo version of "Intuition," which brought the night to a moving, elegant close. Feist set the bar really high for the rest of the shows at the Zoo this summer, and indeed delivered one of the best outdoor performances we're likely to see here in Minnesota over the warmer months.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I've been a fan of Feist since her early work with Broken Social Scene, but haven't seen her play live in five years. She's really grown as a performer, and her easy charm added a warm, familiar resonance to her material.

The Crowd: A mix of both young fans and old, as well as people who just wanted to see a show outdoors.

Overheard In The Crowd: "She is rather tiny...and she is rather cute."

Random Notebook Dump: This was the Low Anthem's first night opening for Feist, and they delivered a strong, stirring set that sounded great under the vast summer sky. The Rhode Island quintet have added some more upbeat, boisterous material to their live show since I last saw them (opening for the Avett Brothers at First Ave. two years ago). But the haunting, evocative material from Oh My God, Charlie Darwin will always be my favorite. "Charlie Darwin," and "Home I'll Never Be," were both fantastic, and frontman Ben Knox Miller even used two iPhones to manipulate his whistling to great effect after playing the saw on a hushed, stunning version of "This God Damn House" which was a clear standout of their all-too-brief, half-hour set.


Comfort Me

A Commotion

How Come You Never Go There


The Circle Married The Line

So Sorry

My Moon, My Man

I Feel It All


Bittersweet Melodies


Undiscovered First

Pine Moon

A Limit To Your Love

(Mountain Man Song)

The Bad In Each Other

Caught A Light Wind

Get It Wrong, Get It Right

Cicadas And Gulls (First Encore)

Sealion (First Encore)

Let It Die (First Encore)

Intuition (Second Encore)

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