Thursday, 4 June 2009

Fantasty-tastic


A review of Canadian fiddler extraordinaire Final Fantasy's St George's gig last week, via Suit Yourself magazine.






Last time Final Fantasy, aka Owen Pallatt, was in town, he persuaded a mesmerised audience to forget the Louisiana’s sticky, beer-soaked floor and sit child-like before him and his violin. Back once again, his well deserved success has meant an upgrade to the bigger venue of St George’s but the intimate atmosphere, civilised seating arrangement and the audience’s youthful wonderment was still very much intact.

The Canadian string-arranger to Arcade Fire has developed a reputation for technical brilliance, quirkily-looped soundscapes and touching lyrics that has inspired almost fervent worship in fans. Fitting then, that a hushed St George’s should be host to his choirboy-like vocals and violin’s soaring heights. Support was provided by the caped Castlemusic whose delicate vocals were accompanied by such minimalist and rawly played guitar riffs that it was sometimes uncertain how long she’d been playing. At times powerful, at others utterly vulnerable, her ditties formed impressionistic sketches using old folk emblems. Tales of sea-faring wives and leafy forests were entangled with more modern touches, the best of which saw Castlemusic abandon her guitar, using her voice alone to fill the church’s lofty heights.

After a brief interval, Final Fantasy treated a now fuller nave to a mammoth set of new tracks, many of which Pallett endearingly excused for not being quite polished enough. Heartland, which looks set for release at the end of the year, is not a giant departure from previous records: lyrically marrying the fantastic and routine and musically forming entire arrangements from bass and percussion to melodies using his trusty fiddle. Yet there is perhaps more confidence seen in the tentative first performances of these new tracks than before, or maybe this is just Pallett’s ease at playing not only in a venue more frequently used for classical musicians but also a former place of worship, harking back to Pallett’s formative years performing alongside his church organist father.

Almost the entirety of Pallett’s set was accompanied by a silhouette artist who transformed coloured scraps of acetate into kooky audio-visuals using a clunky overhead projector. With the help of a mirror, aeroplanes soared across the ceiling, lace-gloved hands played piano and a mass of flowing locks were trimmed to form a face resembling Final Fantasy himself. Although at times the DIY aesthetic felt a little bit stilted, the final projections on to St George’s balcony and roof, which saw glittering stars brush Pallett’s face and violin in the darkness, were particularly enchanting. Two encores later, a bewitched congregation finally filtered out into the Bristol night, filled with awe at such a beautiful and seemingly effortless set. Praise be to Pallett, Hallelujah!

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