Owen Pallett at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Owen Pallett
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
December 3rd, 2014

by Joanna Orland

Known for his work with Arcade Fire, his previous nom de plume “Final Fantasy”, and his Oscar-nominated soundtrack for the Spike Jonze film HER, musician Owen Pallett has set the bar very high for himself. Luckily for Owen, he is a musical genius which is most notably demonstrated through his live performance.

When I first saw Owen Pallett live at Koko in 2010, my mind was blown while tears streamed down my face. The complexities of his music are never more obvious than when watching him perform them on stage with nothing more than his violin and loop station. His voice is so flawlessly beautiful, I finally understand the metaphor “voice of an angel”. He is never more spectacular when he goes it alone.

For the Queen Elizabeth Hall performance, Owen did not go it alone but had a sextet ensemble to accompany him on a few key songs, as well as a drummer and bassist to accompany him on the bulk of the others. The songs with the sextet were stunning. Owen’s voice tonally works seamlessly with string instrumentation and you can see the excitement in his eyes when the sextet start playing. You can see this excitement only in his eyes because as passionate and genius of a musician that Owen is, he is a polite, baby-faced Canadian boy, shy and modest in his demeanor. In an introduction to one song with the sextet, he claimed embarrassment as he was only going to sing and not play along. He could not put down his glass of water while singing, clearly not knowing what to do with his hands while fighting back the passion he so clearly feels inside. In spite of his inner struggle, the passion exudes and the audience was so wholly commanded by his voice that you could hear a pin drop amongst the crowd.

His shyness and nerves are probably what prompted Owen Pallett to seek out musical accompaniment for his current tour. Telling by the last time I saw him perform live, he certainly doesn’t need other musicians to work with on stage as he is mesmerizing and ridiculously talented on his own. In fact, he’s so talented, it was almost embarrassing for his drummer in particular to be playing alongside him as all other less talented artists are put to shame by Owen’s modest glory. While moral support was clearly offered by his drummer, keeping time certainly wasn’t. Perhaps Owen should conquer his fear and go back to being solo, at least for a handful more of the songs in his set.

Speaking of a handful, Owen Pallett must be the most co-ordinated man in show business with his quick fingers playing nearly all of the instrumental parts in his complex scores. His music may not be immediately palatable to the untrained ear, but music as texturally complex and tonally stunning as Owen’s must be listened to more than once to be truly appreciated. And seeing it performed live just adds yet another layer.

Leave a Reply