(almost) perfect gigs

Posted by jill on January 26, 2010

Nico Muhly and Sam Amidon, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

The last time Owen Pallett played the Union Chapel eight months ago, it was pretty much the ideal gig in the perfect venue. At the time, I thought that the show really couldn’t get that much better. Owen Pallett has set the bar high, and somehow he continues to explore and reinterpret his music in new ways.

It wasn’t even that he made it easy for himself, asking Nico Muhly and Sam Amidon to play as last minute special guests. It was great to see Nico and Sam perform in this relaxed environment, after watching Nico Muhly’s programmed show last night at the Roundhouse with the Britten Sinfonia. Whereas last night, it was all about grand arrangements and drama, with just the two of them, it was much more playful. It was an extra treat to see Beth Orton guest with them again, and performing different songs to the night before.

Having Nico Muhly on before Owen Pallett was a great opportunity to compare the two. Having not really noticed it before until these two performance, there are so many similarities between their arrangements. Both are never happy with just writing quiet harmonies, instead opting to add little flourishes everywhere in their music. There’s no other way to say it, but both their music is just very pretty.

The last two times Owen Pallett performed alone (with a projectionist) with the focus entirely on him and his looping pedals. Before the show, I was a little uncertain how it would work with an additional musician. In fact, it was great to see that Owen could work off another musician, filling out the songs with percussion and whistling. Now, instead of just watching to see how he loops and cues up sections of his songs (which he still does) it’s also a chance to focus on his technique. Until tonight, I’ve never noticed how fast he plucked his violin.

It’s a shame that with the attention that signing to Domino and the release of Heartland that it is likely that Owen Pallett might never play somewhere like the Union Chapel again (the next show is going to be at Koko). There is something about that octagonal, domed room that really suits music like this.

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