No, don’t worry this is not a video games post. While Final Fantasy is an immensely popular series of videogames produced by Square-Enix, it is also the name of the violin-based musical project of one Owen Pallett. If you’re aware of the latter, you probably learned of it through one of two ways: Pallett’s work with indie-rock superstars The Arcade Fire (he not only plays on their records but tours with them on a regular basis), or his winning of the 2006 Polaris Music Prize, Canada’s first monetary prize for music based solely on artistic merit. In winning the award, Pallett beat out some of the biggest names in Canadian music, including Sarah Harmer, the New Pornographers, Wolf Parade and Metric.
I was pretty surprised that Final Fantasy won the award, actually, and not because some of the records it beat (in particular the New Pornographers and Wolf Parade) are personal favourites of mine. No, it’s because the record, the unfortunately-titled He Poos Clouds, just never felt very dynamic to me. While a few tracks stand out (in particular “This Lamb Sells Condos”), most of the album doesn’t reach the levels of orchestral *wow-ness* that I think Pallett was reaching for. Still, my criticism of the record’s production aside, Pallett is clearly a talent worth watching, so it was without hesitation that I braved the House of the Lord and checked out Final Fantasy’s show at St. Matthew’s United Church in Halifax.
This was my first concert in a church and I must say, for this type of show, it’s an absolutely fantastic venue. Seeing the crowds of indie kids all crammed into pews was cute, and the acoustics were fantastic. Spencer and I sat up in the balcony, a great bird’s eye view for the show. Opening for Pallett was Halifax local Laura Peek, who I had never seen before but impressed the hell out of me. Her first few songs felt a tad bit generic to me, but she began to really hit her stride. She gives off a very Sarah Slean vibe, and that’s a compliment. Check out her MySpace page.
Pallett is a loveably unassuming performer. Most of the night his between-song banter was self-depricating and charming, and his vocals are quiet and understated…except when he yells. My god, can Pallett yell in his songs, very reminiscent of Roger Waters. Pallett was solo this evening, sampling himself playing the violin and keyboard to create a complete, full sound that filled every rafter of the church. While He Poos Clouds can sometimes sound flat, the sounds that Pallett creates live are simply stunning.
When he was setting up, I noticed a projector set up with a white screen behind it. But this was no LCD projector: this was an old fashioned overhead machine, and a visual artist traveling with Pallett used it to create handmade animations to go along with the music. Not unlike the way Pallett layers his songs with sound, the woman used layers and layers of overhead sheets to create everything from a bustling castle town to a flock of birds that she sent flying around the church’s vast ceiling. It was the perfect visual accompaniment for Final Fantasy: creative, vibrant, wonderous.
In short, you should have been there.
Watch: Final Fantasy – “This Lamb Sells Condos” (live in San Francisco)
…and while he didn’t play this in Halifax, here’s the video of Pallett’s cover of Bloc Party’s “This Modern Love”