The enduring fantasy of Owen Pallett


I had the great pleasure of seeing Owen Pallett perform yet again in Whelan’s last night, the fifth time I’ve seen him perform and the third time in that venue. Announced on Twitter just the day before – the place is a fave of Pallett’s, apparently – tickets cost just €5 and it had the air of a casual, improvised event, almost as if the room was watching a talented friend performing purely for the sake of entertainment. The novelty of seeing Pallett loop his violin and keyboard, with each layer of exquisitely composed sound dancing precisely with one another, just doesn’t wear off, so here’s the review I wrote just over five years ago, after being blown away by Final Fantasy on the same stage. Also, think it’s the last time I’ve seen anyone use an overhead projector…


From The Irish Times, May 16th, 2006

Final Fantasy, Whelan’s, Dublin

The Canadian music scene just keeps producing essential bands, but instead of the dense sound and sprawling line ups of Broken Social Scene or The Arcade Fire, Final Fantasy is all about one man and his violin. Owen Pallett might have arranged the strings on The Arcade Fire’s “Funeral”, but it is as Final Fantasy that the classically trained violinist is making his mark on “Can-rock”.

This performance was another presentation by Foggy Notions, and Pallett was appropriately preceded on stage by the ridiculously talented Dublin Guitar Quartet, who play classical music by the likes of Philip Glass on electric guitar. Pallett, on the other hand, plays gorgeous pop music with one violin. He sounds like a one-man string section, however, using a pedal-controlled sampler to loop elements over each other, building the components and his warm vocals into intricate, scintillating songs.

He certainly has no shortage of sumptuous songs to play. His debut album “Has A Good Home” is filled with achingly beautiful melodies such as “This is the Dream of Win and Regine” and “The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead”. His just-released second album, the bizarrely titled “He Poos Clouds”, is an even more consistent piece of work, featuring a string quartet throughout.

Pallett was joined for some songs by a drummer called Philip (“We got him in Cologne,” explained Pallett. “They sell drummers on the streets there. I paid top dollar for him”), which added texture to the Final Fantasy sound. The other “instrument” was a humble overhead projector, standing to one side of the stage, evoking classrooms and scribbled lecture notes. When Steph the projectionist turned it on, however, she treated the audience to a whimsical puppetry display, full of medieval fairy tales, floating violinists, castles, kings, kites and kissing couples, with chapters called things like “Final Fantasy as Orpheus” and “Journey to Hades”. It was very probably the first time an overhead projector and a violin achieved such unity of purpose, but after this performance, no string quartet should be without one.

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