Owen Pallett - Canadian Music Week 2014 Report Card

CMW Report Card ’14: Owen Pallett @ Danforth Music Hall

Saturday, May 10. Owen Pallett has a triumphant homecoming at the city that's no longer his home.

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- May 12, 2014

Background/Composition: Owen Pallett is one of the busiest string arrangers/film scorers/Arcade Fire members in the business, but this pseudo-CMW show has him rightfully returning as a pseudo-solo artist in a pseudo-record release for his new album, In Conflict (pushed back to the end of May due to vinyl plant strain from Record Store Day, but it was still for sale at the merch table).

Crowd Work: A

Owen warned the audience he's a "say it don't spray it" type of singer, so the first few rows "might catch VD." Without missing a beat, someone yelled "can you catch it twice?"

Torontopia Vibes: B

this lamb sells condos

Owen Pallett's spent the last year and a half living in Montreal (due to "malaise"). Barring an Arcade Fire afterparty, this was the first time he'd performed a headlining show back in his hometown of Toronto, and it felt kind of bittersweet. After the first couple of songs, Owen called it out, admitting that after a long time of "oh no, not Toronto again" thoughts, he's "at peace" with his former city of residence. "Toronto's the best!" yelled a patriotic heckler. "Toronto's pretty good," he responded. Still, when he launched into Torontopia-era Final Fantasy anthems like "This Lamb Sells Condos" (so named for "condo king"/real estate villain Brad J. Lamb), it was like 2005 all over again. The old songs got the biggest ovations (at least from those folks), but Pallett recognized the friendly crowd: "Wow, I wish I could take you all home with me."

Band Beef: B-

Speaking of his relationship with Toronto, Pallett vowed not to be "the guy who moves to Berlin and badmouths Toronto," because "that guy is the worst." In our interview with Pallett last week, he spoke out against the blog-phenomenon of band beef, saying "disses are a creation of music journalists, not musicians." So let's create some, shall we? Who's the "guy"?

A) Joel Gibb of The Hidden Cameras: Pallett once played in the band, who coincidentally were performing across town at the Indies.

B) Dan Snaith of Caribou/Daphni: Snaith now lives in London, England, though I believe he spent some time in Berlin. But by all accounts, they're still pretty friendly.

C) Any number of Toronto electronic acts. Take your pick.

Evolution: A

Final Fantasy - This Is The Dream Of Win And Regine

Pallett's live show has always been totally engrossing: watching him set and play against his violin and keyboard loops is fascinating, seeing him create an orchestra of sounds out of two instruments (plucking, strumming, bowing, hitting, etc) is mesmerizing, but "he's" now a three-piece band with Matt Smith and Robbie Gordon, a.k.a. Les Mouches, on bass, drums and vocals. And seeing the rhythm section also play against the loops added another element, especially Gordon's virtuosic drums (tip to solo acts: live drums are always the right choice). Suddenly early favourites like "This Is The Dream of Win & Regine") were twice as epic, heavy and multi-dimensional.

Problem Solving: B

Owen Pallett - Scandal At The Parkade

Sometimes the best way to get the crowd on your side is to fuck up a little. Honestly. Pallett false-started his second song, "Scandal At The Parkade" twice after failing to nail the loop and announced he was just going to skip that one. Then after a bit of laughter, he tried it a third time and, like when a basketball player hits a late-game free throw, the crowd erupted in a mixture of relief and appreciation. If only someone could have fixed the persistent buzz coming out of one of the speakers. It'd also probably be nice if Smith's vocals were raised so we could actually hear the backups.

Pacing: A

This concert had a lot of new material, which for the less web-savvy fans might have been a bit tiring, but it was well balanced with songs from all over his career, varied between solo, band, violin and piano ballads. This was one of his few solo shows before jumping back on the Arcade Fire tour, and he made it count.

FINAL GRADE: B+

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