This is the second time Owen Pallett has played Islington's spectacular Union Chapel in only a few months, although last time he was touring under his recording name, Final Fantasy, since dropped in favour of his given name.

The show opens with a short set by his collaborators Sam Amidon and Nico Muhly, who perform with the help of a guest appearance by Beth Orton on vocals. After an interval, Pallett appears on stage playing along to the R&B backing track, walks to the front of the stage and removes his shoes, then begins tuning up.

He's thin, clad in a black shirt and dark trousers, with the same quiffed hair that seems to haunt popular violinists. The Union Chapel's sound is, as ever, clear as a bell, which suits Pallett's stripped-back live style and his superb playing.

Unsurprisingly, tracks from new album 'Heartland' - released a couple of weeks before this show - feature heavily tonight. The opener is one of the final tracks on 'Heartland', the lightly picked 'E is for Estranged'.
His touring bandmate and collaborator Thomas Gill appears on stage to play percussion and the two launch into 'This Lamb Sells Condos' from 'He Poos Clouds', which builds and builds and finally ends in a crescendo that diminishes to just Pallett, his violin and his bow. Then he takes a bow. Two tracks from Heartland, 'Midnight Directives' and 'Flare Gun', follow. On the first, Gill uses brushed drums to soften the tone and heighten the atmosphere while the bouncier 'Flare Gun' features staccato drums and a string part that's been transposed from the bold brass of the album version to something that could soundtrack a Tudor costume drama. The vocals, however, are pure Elvis Costello circa the excellent 'Juliet Letters' album.

One of Final Fantasy's best and most beautiful standalone tracks, 'The Butcher', follows, with its references to "domesday, the end of a century" and the instruction to "put all your fears, your fires, your family, into the mouth of Final Fantasy".

Pallett takes some time out to tell us about his experiences with English food (he's Canadian), saying that "you guys are the most friendly to vegetarians in Europe", although a tussle with an egg mayonnaise sandwich meant that Gill has spent the last few hours before tonight's performance "puking and shitting at the same time, something I thought only happens in Asian countries".

The shouted, ghostly backing vocals in 'Many Lives -> 49mp' are tonight supplied by Pallett's sampler, lending them an even more ghostly demeanour than they have on record. He liberally uses the sampler on stage, recording and looping his own violin lines and more, allowing him to deftly layer them so they reflect the way the recordings are constructed.

Gill leaves the stage for a few tracks - nothing to do with the egg mayonnaise, we hope - and Pallett plays alone, a Buffy Sainte-Marie cover followed by the title track from 'He Poos Clouds' and 'That's When The Audience Died', which with its picked-out intro suits being played solo.

Songs from 'Heartland follow', which prompt Pallett to explain that, "contrary to what everyone is saying, it's not a prog record, it's not a concept record... it's an album". The final track of the main set is 'Lewis Takes off his Shirt', which brings to mind 1980s synth music, the Who and even the Kings of Convenience in its vocal line.

For an encore he bats back a shouted request from the audience ("I'm just going to stick to the hits" he says to a laugh from the crowd) and instead plays the endearing 'This is the Dream of Win and Regine', a sort of tribute to his sometime bandmates and friends from Arcade Fire. It's a popular choice and an enjoyable way to end an entertaining gig by a remarkably talented musician whose live show is on top form.












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Commenting On: Union Chapel, London, 25/1/2010 - Owen Pallett








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