Owen Pallett in Whelan’s, Dublin, 20th July 2014
Classically trained violinist, Oscar nominee, computer games enthusiast; Owen Pallett may not seem like your typical Whelan’s performer. The Canadian though is a regular to the venue and, following a support slot for The National (you may have also seen him playing the violin with Arcade Fire in Marlay Park in June), he takes his opportunity to pay another visit.
Having checked the time and removed his shoes, with just his violin and repeater for company, he begins with E is for Estranged. His voice, though perhaps not the most distinctive comes through clean and pure, sitting beautifully on top of the layers of violin he has just laid down.
The violin is just perfect as an instrument in this sort of intimate environment. One chord, played correctly can illicit emotions like no other, especially when played by such a magnificent arranger as Pallett, particularly during the opening part of his show. He apologises for the slow start to the show but the explosion of applause that greets the closing of The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead shows his opening salvo is viewed otherwise.
The usually brilliant He Poos Clouds – an ode to a computer game character: “All the boys I have ever loved have been digital”, “I move him with my thumbs” – is perhaps the only let down of the early songs, Pallett getting slightly lost in all the layers; his shouts of “Maybe not” not quite landing in the way he may have hoped.
“I don’t even remember these songs,” Pallett explains. “It’s a mystery to me. Well, this one I know…” he suggests leading into This Lamb Sells Condos; a song that perfectly exemplifies what Pallett does so well. There’s a unique, catchy instrumental chorus; beautiful, clear vocals, impressive at higher and lower tones; and bizarre and intriguing lyrics like “His massive genitals refused to cooperate/No amount of therapy can hope to save his marriage.”
From here Pallett is joined by his drummer and bassist to offer the show a more ‘full band’ experience to showcase his newer material. The bigger sound shakes the crowd from their silent stillness but loses some of the show’s intimacy in the process.
Some songs, like Keep the Dog Quiet and Infernal Fantasy, work in this new set-up – the former particularly giving the feeling of an electrical storm with heavy drum beats and flashing venue lights – but others disappoint more than anything that has gone before; Pallett’s vocals sounding somewhat lost among the noise in The Riverbed, in particular.
Pallett returns for the encore on his own initially for a cover of Tori Amos’s Pretty Good Year to re-establish the intimacy in the room. His self-deprecating admission of “I don’t know what I’m doing on this one,” only enhancing the esteem in which the audience hold him, especially after a lovely rendition.
His band returns for ‘hits’ This Is The Dream Of Wine And Regine and Lewis Takes Off His Shirt to provide a thrilling finale to the piece, the latter certainly the highlight of the full band part of the show.
A few missteps are a few missteps more than Pallett usually makes on this Whelan’s stage. His audience always seems to return and, indeed, most of tonight’s crowd seem to be veterans of shows past. There is nothing to suggest from this performance that any of this loyalty will be lost.
We will, no doubt, be happy to see Owen Pallett grace Whelan’s at some time in the not too distant future.
Owen Pallett Photo Gallery
Photos: Aaron Corr