Learning to Fly Solo

Canadian rock stars alternately please crowd, themselves

These are the dying days of McCarren Park Pool, Concert Venue, but at least that concrete jungle is going out on a few high notes: This triple bill beneath an almost-full moon was enough to make you forget that your $30 was lining Clear Channel's coffers.

The maudlin dramaturges of Grizzly Bear started us off, a tad narcotic and with a bit too much musical theater about them. Broken Social Scene overlord Kevin Drew was up next, and you've got to feel bad for the wave of anticipation and subsequent disappointment that followed: The crowd obviously expected the familiar, preferably from the band's 2003 breakout You Forgot It in People. What we got instead was six talented dudes (three of them BSS alumni) sticking to material from Drew's excellent forthcoming solo album, Spirit If . . . . When the masses started clamoring for the blood of the classics, Brandon Canning had to set them straight: "It's 2007. There's a new program. I hope you like it—we could play old songs, but it wouldn't be as much fun for the people onstage."

So instead, the band trotted out "Safety Bricks" (which others have noticed sounds suspiciously like Feist's "Past in Present"), the excellent "F*cked Up Kid" (which slinks a lot like People's own "Lover's Spit"), and the fist-pumping "Back Out on the . . . . " Drew didn't hide the fact that we were watching a solo-work-in-progress, whether he was fumbling a verse and reverting to a lyrical cheat sheet ("I'm learnin' it!") or looking a bit out of place while Canning unveiled an unreleased, half-written song from his upcoming album. In the spirit of recent nostalgia, though, Drew smartly closed with two slices of his vintage wall o' sound: the anthemic BSS ripper "Superconnected" and a galloping "Major Label Debut," which coaxed Feist herself out to sing and bang some tambourine.

Ms. Leslie Feist, already contemplating her New York Album
Isabelle Mills-Tannenbaum
Ms. Leslie Feist, already contemplating her New York Album

Details

Feist/Kevin Drew/Grizzly Bear
McCarren Park Pool
August 29

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Which brings us to the lady of the hour, who opened with "When I Was a Young Girl" before informing everyone that she'd taken a month off touring to grow some raspberries. She played "a country song from Brooklyn" (courtesy of Tony Scherr) and an early, rough-edged version of "Leisure Suite," recently unearthed and revamped from four-track demos. There were some missteps, at least for the mood: The somber, piano-driven "The Water" dragged down a crowd that just wanted to mushaboom into the night, and "1 2 3 4" sadly came without the A-list backing choir she'd just convened for David Letterman. But Feist proved she can still shred like the ex–hard rocker she is and made a bid for the gospel throne with the encore, the traditional-via–Nina Simone "Sea Lion Woman." Prediction: Feist will eventually relocate here and, like PJ Harvey before her, write her New York Album. And when she does, we'll be waiting, with open arms and ecstatic hand claps.

 
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