One would suspect the cross-over between Owen Pallett fans and Norwegian thrash metal/70’s prog fusion aficionados is limited at best, which makes Next Life a curious choice to open tonight’s show. Their MO is to make every song sound like the boss battle theme from some particularly awesome video game, which to their credit they do exceedingly well. It’s delivered with a head-banging, star-jumping energy so far removed from any notion of cool it’s rather endearing, and watching the crowd reaction to the shredding guitars, baroque keyboard solos and forthright decibels was an entertainment in itself. Personally, I loved their unabashed ridiculousness, but I can appreciate others may not have not felt the same way. But for those delicate types who found Next Life’s sonic assault unpalatable, the man formerly known as Final Fantasy was soon on hand to soothe their wounded ears.
Heartland is Owen Pallett’s most focused and mature album to date, and with his arrangements more complex and adventurous than ever before it’s a marvel how well he recreates these songs live. Although his friend Thomas adds the occasional smattering of drums or understated guitar line, his input is minimal. The vast majority relies simply on a violin, a keyboard, a loop pedal, and Owen’s prodigious talent. The setl ist is near-perfect, drawing upon the best moments from his back catalogue as well as a generous amount of Heartland.
The breathtaking ‘Lewis Takes Off His Shirt’ is as always the highlight, encapsulating both the brilliant intricacy of his loops and the flair with which he brings them off. The rare airing of ‘Scandal at the Parkade’ is also welcomed rapturously by the many faithful in attendance. Yes, there’s a few mistimed pizzicatos, and the bass-heavy sound (par for the course at Koko) sometimes distorts the vocals, but in the grand scheme of things these are the most minor of quibbles. A brilliant encore is simply the icing on the cake; not only are we treated to ‘The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead’ and ‘Song Song Song’, but also a Mariah Carey cover. Which may seem peculiar to some, but surely there’s no more fitting way to finish an Owen Pallett gig than with a final ‘Fantasy’?
Photos by Minh Lee