Published Jan 13, 2010When conceptual comedy duo Life of a Craphead first took the stage, the crowd seemed unsure what to make of Amy Lam and John McCurley. They played awkwardly charming amateur magicians convinced that magic comes from within, and spent their 15-minute set trying to convince the crowd by demonstrating their "skills" and explaining the life of the working magician in humorously oversimplified, impossibly vague terms.
They were followed by Toronto electro diva Diamond Rings, whose unusually powerful set featured him alone on stage with just his iPod-supplied beats, electric guitar and basic piano-setting keyboard. The performer made use of his free hands any time they were available by waving them around rhythmically in deliberate, almost yoga-like stage melodrama, which, coupled with his intense eye makeup and lusty baritone, made for a heady and entertaining performance. Fellow Torontonian Gentleman Reg even dropped by to perform a song the two had co-written earlier this year.
Appropriately, though, it was Owen Pallett himself who brought the night to life. His entrance was suitably dramatic, as he stepped out into the smoke-heavy air of the stage to an epic, thumping bass track before quietly picking up his violin and letting the music stop and the spotlight rest upon his instrument.
For the first time on the night, the audience were rapt, and the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy eased into fan favourite "This Is the dream of Win and Regine," which was followed by a haunting, solitary version of the new Heartland track "E for Estranged." From then on, Pallett was joined by his multi-instrumentalist companion, who accompanied him perfectly on beautiful, full-bodied takes of "Keep the Dog Quiet," "The Butcher" and "The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead," as well as a particularly harrowing version of "Many Lives – 49 MP." Peppered between songs was Pallett's charismatic stage banter, during which he often gave a giddy chuckle, such as after he announced that he was about to play a new song, jokingly adding, "'Cause we're so ahead of you."
After a version of "This Lamb Sells Condos" played mostly on violin, Pallett left the stage and returned for an encore, which he ended with a lively version of Heartland track "Lewis Takes off His Shirt." It was unmistakably Pallett's night, and a chance for his fans and him to celebrate his knack for melody, composition and arrangement, and of course Heartland, his latest achievement.