(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.


Final Fantasy

Posted by jill on May 28, 2009

Final Fantasy, originally uploaded by jellybeanz.

For all the moaning about gigs in terrible venues, there is the odd occasion when bands play at the perfect venue. Never has there been a more perfect match than Final Fantasy playing at the Union Chapel. The only more perfect situation would be the dream of Final Fantasy playing in my living room.

Back to reality, the way that his music drifted around the church sent the audience off to a magical world, and every single note was heard in a full silence. Playing a set half full of songs off the forthcoming album, Owen Pallett could have carried on forever.

Of the highlights of the new material, possibly my favourite new song is Lewis Takes Off His Shirt (although this video misses off the fantastic climax of the song). But old and new material alike, it is just astounding to watch him as he co-ordinates between sampling and looping his violin, plucking and bowing it, even using it as a percussion instrument and performing in the dark.

What added to the music was the projection show. It started off as a series of live performed shadow images to a projection screen, but halfway through the set the light of the projector was turned towards the ceiling of the church instead and the lights danced around the venue.

On the face of it, all the constituent parts of the show (the single violin and keyboard and old school projector) seemed to be so basic and simple. But through the genius of Owen’s magical performance and the accompany projections, it seemed like something extraordinary.