Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream
Knox United Church
The bridge over the Bow was awash in purple light as we made our way into the downtown core. Presumably it was lit up for the swearing in of the new mayor that evening, but it felt like a fitting heralding in of an Owen Pallett concert, as well. He did, after all, pay tribute to our city's changing reputation while filling us in on the disturbing results of Toronto's mayoral race. Did you hear that we elected Rob Ford tonight? The guy who wants to get rid of all the streetcars? The tables really have turned, haven't they? You've got a gay Muslim mayor.
Knox United Church, always an acoustically perfect and intimate concert venue, has recently implemented assigned seating, and our concert dates managed to secure us some premium seats, 9th row in the centre pews. With a blustery night outside the stained glass, we quickly abandoned our plans to meet for a pre-concert libation, opting instead to catch up with Susan and Jeff from the comfort of our hard wooden pew.
Little Scream, with whom none of us were familiar, was an endearing and musically compelling opener. Channeling a little of the sound and the esthetics of Jesca Hoop, but with a tremolo voice reminiscent of Amber Webber (of Lightning Dust and Black Mountain), she looped her way through a highly original and evocative set, complimenting us on the quality of our Value Village where she had just bought herself a new wig. Presumably the same wig that she kept adjusting during Red Hunting Jacket. At the merch table, Little Scream was utterly charming, expressing her amazement that not only did Susan and I want to buy her CD, but wanted her to sign it as well. Nobody has ever asked for my autograph before!
I let her keep my pen. I had a feeling she would have a few more autographs to sign.
Looking very butch with a hint of a scraggly beard (I'm not sure how this shirt looks under this sweater, it's sort of a Mark E Smith look, I guess), Owen Pallett was enthusiastically received. Well, as enthusiastically as one can get in a church. Knox is a wonderful venue, acoustically and architecturally, but it's not exactly the sort of place the audience really lets loose, despite Owen's invitation for us to walk around, take your clothes off.
With this show being the fifth time I have seen Owen Pallett perform, I couldn't help but be struck by the unfailing consistency of his performance, which somehow manages to also continually evolve. Since dropping the Final Fantasy moniker, Owen has been performing with Thomas Gill, a guitarist/percussionist who accompanies him on most songs. It's fascinating to watch them perform together, two very strong yet very diverse personalities and musicians. Just as you think that they are completely lost in their own separate universes, they glance at each other, and suddenly the disparate sounds are cohesive.
When I first saw Owen Pallett and Thomas Gill perform together, Thomas fulfilled the role of accompanist, but at last night's performance, he was much more of a musical partner, asserting his personality (he's kind of a bad-ass) and his considerable musicality more fully.
Owen Pallett, of course, is a phenomenal musician. His wizardry with looping is increasingly impressive, his confidence in experimental sound is unparalleled, and of course his violin playing is glorious. I was thrilled that he performed Better Than Worse for the encore, and although it was a single-song encore, it was a beautifully extended version that soared to new heights, even featuring some hot jazz guitar licks from Mr Gill (who was apparently none the worse for having been mugged the night before).
There were no Mariah Carey covers last night, despite a request from the audience. But Owen did tell us the story of how someone had videotaped him the first time he covered that now infamous version and how, at the time, he had forgotten some of the words. After the performance became somewhat of a YouTube sensation, he then felt obligated to perform the song at every show for the next two years, just to show that I knew the words.
We didn't need Mariah Carey though; we had Owen Pallett.