I saw two concerts on Saturday night (April 10) — both of them by singer-songwriters who used to call themselves by a stage name. After seeing the early show at the Hideout by the artist formerly known as Smog (Bill Callahan), I headed up to Lincoln Hall for the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett).
I had always thought the Final Fantasy name was rather silly — bringing to mind the computer game of the same name. A few months ago, Pallett announced he was dropping the name to “definitively distinguish my music from Square/Enix’s games.” Good idea. And so, his latest album arrived as mp3 files with “Final Fantasy” listed as the artist’s name, but by the time it actually came out, his publicist was saying that it was an Owen Pallett album, not a Final Fantasy album.
Either way, Heartland is filled with some alluringly beautiful orchestral pop music. I haven’t studied the lyrics enough to follow the narrative that apparently runs through the songs, but Pallett has said: “The songs themselves form a narrative concerning a farmer named Lewis and the fictional world of Spectrum. The songs are one-sided dialogues with Lewis, a young, ultra-violent farmer, speaking to his creator.”
In concert, Pallett performs in a style very much reminiscent of Andrew Bird, using looping pedals to build chords and counterpoint with his violin and keyboard playing. He was assisted at Lincoln Hall by guitarist and drummer Thomas Gill, but it was very much Pallett’s show. Pallett apologized for his voice, which was apparently a bit rougher than usual, but any difference was barely noticeable.
Pallett played one brand-new song, “Don’t Stop the Party on My Account,” and he finished off his encore with a cover of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” — a joking reference, perhaps, to Pallett’s old stage name? Before playing the song, Pallett jokes, “If I got to a show and don’t see any humiliation, I feel like I want my money back. So here you go.” It wasn’t humiliating, but it was rather odd to see an indie-rock artist at Lincoln Hall doing a Mariah Carey song.
Like Pallett, the opening act was from Canada, and they had the antlers to prove it. It was a cool band called Snowblink, playing songs with fairly minimal arrangements (and a set of antlers on one of the guitars). Judging from the somewhat confusing information posted on the band’s myspace page, there’s a revolving lineup of several musicians, with Daniela Gesundheit being the main singer. On Saturday, it was just her on vocals and guitar plus one other guy. Interesting stuff.