Despite yesterday’s weather being chilly, rainy and windy (the worst combination), an incredible show took place within the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, located on the CNE grounds in Toronto.
The show in question, of course, was Polaris-prize-winning Owen Pallett, or Final Fantasy/Owen Pallett as it said on my ticket (okay, seriously, his name is Owen Pallett, Ticketmaster!). With the Queen E being smaller than huge arenas, the show was a lot more intimate than previous shows I attended.
Snowblink, an ambient folk group from Toronto, opened the show up. I have never seen these guys (or should I say, guy and girl) play before, and they thoroughly amazed me. Daniela and Dan are the most intense performers I have seen thus far. The two were so in sync you would think they were twins. They picked up on minor nuances in the other’s performance, and their vocal harmonies were absolutely breathtaking. Admittedly, I didn’t know many of their songs, but I did recognize the song they opened with, “Rut and Nuzzle.”
Daniela and Dan each had their unique qualities though. Daniela, for example, played a guitar with antlers on it. I kid you not. She also sometimes chatted with the audience, and twice asked the audience if there was something we wanted to talk about. Dan was a lot quieter, but was so into the music that there was one point where his eyes were completely closed. I also remember watching, in complete awe, as he frantically played a string of notes on the guitar while making bass sounds with his feet.
For one song, they brought on Thomas Gill (Owen Pallet’s supporting musician), and Daniela introduced him as “This is Thomas. You may know him from such bands as Thomas.” Daniela also said, after covering the song “Human Nature”: “We’re Michael Jackson,” to which the audience laughed. Followed by “Actually, we’re Snowblink.”
At about 9:15 PM Owen Pallett came onto the stage, opening up with “E For Estranged” from Heartland. Immediately the audience fell into a trance with his music. I’ve always been an advocate of standing to watch bands, but his music just seemed to keep everyone seated with its complexity. As those who have seen Owen perform before already know, Owen crafts his songs mainly with playing his violin into a loop pedal. But he doesn’t just use his bow to play it, he also plucks the strings with his hands and taps the body of the instrument. He even yelled into it when playing “Many Lives 49 MP.”
Impeccably dressed in a beige suit, Owen did not ever look out of place on stage. He seemed to always have a smile on his face during his songs, and always was able to laugh it off when he made a mistake of some kind. When Thomas came on stage for the first time, Owen introduced him. Thomas then said “That’s the first time you’ve called me by my name in months.” Apparently, while on tour elsewhere, Owen referred to Thomas as “Puppy Dragon.” He chatted several other times throughout the night, but nothing seemed forced or automatic.
Owen played a great mix of songs from all three of his albums, such as “This is the Dream of Win & Regine”; “He Poos Clouds” and “Lewis Takes Action.” Due to the smaller range of instruments, some of his songs sounded slightly different, but were still recognizable. At one point in the set he played the first three songs from Heartland in chronological order: “Midnight Directives”; “Keep the Dog Quiet” and “Mount Alpentine.”
After playing a bunch of songs, he ended by playing the amazing “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt.” He then came back onto the stage for an encore, playing two songs, the latter of which was “This Lamb Sells Condos.” He even came back onto the stage for a second encore, in which he played a song I was unfamiliar with but still loved because of its musical intensity. In all, Owen ended up playing for almost an hour and a half.
All in all an absolutely amazing set from start to finish. Owen certainly didn’t win the Polaris prize on a fluke.