With nothing but an acoustic guitar and a voice of honey and dust, M. Ward saunters onstage alone. As he solemnly paces the boards, it’s easy to appreciate why the evening’s headliner later confesses to feeling intimidated in the presence of such talent. Judging by the handful of new tracks offered up tonight, forthcoming seventh album A Wasteland Companion sees him at the height of his story-telling prowess, with Primitive Girl especially characterful.
“I had a nap on every one of those chairs this afternoon,” claims Feist early in her generously-proportioned set. “There may even be drool on some”. While our seats are undoubtedly comfortable (and, incidentally, drool-less), kip is unthinkable from the moment a radically re-worked Mushaboom opens proceedings, its perkiness culled by group chants and bold percussion.
It’s not the only track to diverge dramatically from its recorded version tonight, with special mention to I Feel It All, morphed into a lively power-anthem. But it’s Metals that naturally dominates, with Undiscovered First’s colossal conclusion, A Commotion’s quiet-LOUD dynamics, and the haunting Comfort Me all validating the record’s excellence.
That said, some tracks might need to sink in a while longer, with an attempt to throw The Circle Married the Line’s refrain over to the audience met with awkward silence (“I guess no one’s going to take that one!” Feist gamely shrugs). But there’s no such knowledge gap afflicting the closing Intuition, her solo rendition met with quietly-building echoes from the stalls. As one enthusiastic cry succinctly puts it, “beautiful!”