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Canada, Canada-da-diddy-doody-da!

Posted in Reviews of the Kind of Thing You Wouldn't Hear in Lifts with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2010 by plumbobrainier

Thing: Owen Pallett (w/ Next Life) @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 28/03/2010

ETA: 20:30

ATA (Actual Time of Arrival, because I was so excited I walked much more quickly than anticipated): 20:05

Company: My better half (who else? who better?)

It’s a tiny place, is the Music Hall atop The Deaf Institute. The disco ball hanging from its ceiling is comically oversized for the space – a great, reflective, kitschy-camp planet.

We were stood in the centre of the room, gradually finding out that we were amongst the oldest in the growing crowd. She was, in her own words, a granny, and I made the inevitable gag that soon I would find rock concerts too darn loud.

I got the drinks in.

She said to me, “I think I’ve just seen him.”

“Who?”

“Owen. Owen Pallett.”

“Oh yeah? Where?” (I said this whilst trying to hide my boyish excitement)

“Has he got long hair?”

“No.”

“Oh, it wasn’t him then.”

The pretend Pallett with the long hair turned out to be a member of Next Life, the support act. His bandmates were a skinny, shaven-headed Southeast Asian-looking guy wearing an Assuck tshirt, and a very large-chested man with long black hair and a goatee, who looked like he had just retired from international football, playing for Italy, in order to take up the drums.

Next Life are the kind of band you’d expect to play at the Deaf Institute if, like Alanis, you like to sing “well, isn’t it ironic” to yourself. Their’s is a brand of ear-splitting electronica-inflected vocal-less death-sludge-metal-core (they’re concertina-ing train wrecks are genre descriptions) played with drums, electric guitar, a keyboard contraption, and two MacBooks; although I suspect that the guitarist’s showed him the musical score – it would have been necessary, so complicated was the stop-starty barrage of major chord, tombstone-slab riffs and squiggly keyboard lines.

My reactions went as follows: this is loud, this is hilarious, this is a joke of Owen’s, this is great, this is samey, this is I-don’t-know-what. But by the end, Next Life had won a special place in my heart. Their guitarist and keyboardist spent their 20 minute set head-banging around, doing the best impressions, respectively, of a mute pitbull terrier and a horse’s fly-swatting tail I’d ever seen. & yet, the guitarist nodded with sweet enthusiasm between songs, and explained so very much with the words, “We are from Norway.”

Next Life are a band of paradoxes. Despite their metal-heaviness (which is no bad thing), I could see why Mr. Pallett had chosen them: their music was intricate, expertly played, yet deceptively simple, and contained snatches of childish innocence and playfulness amongst its holocaustal hammering. Their guitarist’s parting words: “It was nice to play here. You are a nice audience.” Subject your own ears here.

Owen appeared without fanfare, at the side of the stage. I darn-near swooned. His last brace of albums are probably my favourite two records since records began (I’m sure I’ll put a very masculine list of all me ol’ faves up on here soon). He was looking serious, he was, staring at the stage. He has a small chin, I noticed. A perfectionist’s brain was mulling over the elaborate setup. A young man approached him and handed him a tupperware tub of homemade biscuits. Owen looked bemused and smiled, gratefully. It would be another half hour until his set began.

Owen Takes His Shirt Off

I’d read about Final Fantasy gigs before, and seen clips on Youtube. If you’re reading this (and have read this far), you probably know that Monsieur Pallett plays the violin and uses a loop pedal to build songs up layer by layer. I hadn’t quite realised exactly how fascinating and impressive this would be until I saw and heard it for myself, in reality itself. It is absolutely enthralling, and inspiring in its ingenuity. It looked difficult; and the refreshing thing was that Pallett didn’t make it look all that easy. In fact, the look of satisfaction that crossed his face when he pulled off the timings said it all: this was tricky stuff – like musical juggling. You could almost accuse the plucky Canadian of showing off, if it wasn’t all just so incredibly, sublimely beautiful.

He had a friend along with him called Thomas Gill, who played the guitar, provided percussion (as well as backing vocals and some mightily impressive whistling) and seemed generally quite in awe of Mr. Pallett. Much like everyone else in the room then.

Having someone else on stage meant that O.P. had a foil for his witty banter (delivered in a supremely sarcastic, deliciously camp voice). T.G. left the stage for one song and as he walked off, O.P. cooed “love you,” before explaining that T.G. was disappearing for a biscuit break because there was nothing for him to do during the next song, and it was therefore boring for O.P. to have T.G. sitting up there. Apparently T.G. had taken to providing an accompaniment of interpretative dance, but this had disturbed previous audiences. […] Well, I thought it was funny at the time.

Of special note were three songs I didn’t recognise. I have since discovered these to be an original called ‘The Man with no Ankles’ (Owey Pally’s favourite song from ‘Heartland’ which didn’t make it onto ‘Heartland’, apparently) and two covers (both of which had me expel an instance of an amused alarmbell cackle); the first: ‘Interview‘ by Simon Bookish, the second: ‘Independence is No Solution for Modern Babies’ by Sylvester Boy. Don’t know anything else about either. Songs were good though.

I left the gig elated, truly happy I’d had the chance to witness Canada-da-diddy-doody-da’s finest floppy-haired son do his stuff. It was all over too soon. And the cherry on the already well-iced cake? My better half loved it too!

I realise that this post long ago became a grossly fanboyish gush. I’m sure that it has been of little-to-no-interest to anyone who isn’t inclined towards Senor Pallett already. But if I have any modest ambition for this article it is that I hope it piques the curiosity of those who haven’t yet heard his audio-outpourings, and earns the bon hombre one or two more fans.

Of course, less than (or equal to) two people per week read this thing……

……. BUT! if those two or fewer people listen to, enjoy, and go see a live performance of Owen Pallett’s music, then our planet will be a minutely better place, and I will have played my part and have gone some way to becoming the change I want to see in the world!

That was a trifle overblown, wasn’t it.

[N.B. What’s great is that I delayed writing this review for so long that some internet-habiting person had the time to put the whole gig up on YouTube… Mr. Pallett is made for sharing. Enjoy!]