Tag Archives: review

In Review: Arcade Fire’s Owen Pallett at Portland House, Cardiff

Writer Ellie Philpotts went along to enjoy this show at one of Cardiff’s oldest-new venues, Portland house, on Pallett’s final year of touring.

Owen pallett playing violin

Owen Pallett has some impressive links. He’s collaborated heavily with indie-rock band Arcade Fire and worked with big deals such as The Pet Shop Boys; Linkin Park; Snow Patrol; Robbie Williams and even Taylor Swift, conducting her single The Last Time, from smash-hit 2012 album Red – which impressed me because I’m one big Taylor Swift fan. But away from these notable affiliations, Owen is a renowned name in his own right. Just last year, he was even Oscar-nominated, for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures – Original Score, for the film ‘Her.’ Basically, he’s a talented guy. And his Cardiff Bay show on 3 June at Portland House accurately reflected this.

The night was a success in every way. I was actually the first to arrive at Portland House (unusual for me, so I must’ve been eager!); got chatting to some interesting fellow solo gig-attendees; and revelled in the varying styles of the support acts. The opener, Scriber, a Welsh lad who describes himself as an ‘alt-folk presence’ (http://www.scriberofficial.com/) sang lovely lyrics such as ‘it’s hard to lose grip on something if you know you always have it’, paired with charming guitar twangs. To follow was King of Cats, a very unique band with loud beats, belting out refreshing tracks which included the line ‘I will not walk in the garden of Eden but I’ll die in the garden of eating.’ Makes a change from typical love-songs centred around human love, doesn’t it!

Then it was time for Owen. The man, the legend. He had stage presence, asking the audience direct questions – he was asked whether he’d sampled a ‘cheeky Vimto’, which apparently is a local delicacy, although the Welsh man next to me dismissed this notion, having never heard of it. Demonstrating that Canadians can have flawless knowledge of British culture, Owen replied that he hadn’t, but he had heard of ‘cheeky Nandos.’ Fortunately, a cheeky Nandos does indeed sit right round the corner from this venue in Cardiff Bay, so maybe that’s where he headed afterwards to celebrate a successful show! Although, his status as fitting in with us Cardiffians did slip up when he enquired if there even is a Welsh language. But his music was so good, we’ll forgive him.

Owen isn’t to my usual style, but I was genuinely blown away by his skill. He turns what it means to be a violinist on its head – exciting fast-paced beats teamed with a brilliant voice, and this wasn’t the extent of his instrument-playing – he was no stranger to the keyboard either. The Secret Seven was my favourite of his tracks – he described it as ‘a song about not killing yourself, but about killing someone else instead!’ Only figuratively, I should add as a disclaimer. I also appreciated how he played recordings of his music on loop to compliment the live performance. All in all, a very interesting perspective on that wide thing called ‘music.’ I can see why he’s such an in-demand musician!

After the satisfied audience began to bid a sad farewell to Portland House (in a move mirrored by Owen, as this was one of his final ever tour dates, let alone in the UK!), I was lucky enough to meet the face of the show himself. We had a photo – excuse the lighting – strong lights at gigs just aren’t atmospheric, don’t y’know! Owen is not only a fantastic performer, but also a lovely guy, so I’m sure I speak for many others in saying that Cardiff will miss him!


Owen Pallett and Ellie Philpotts

Portland House


Ellie Philpotts

Ellie Philpotts is in her first year at Cardiff University studying English Literature, Journalism and Media. Follow her blog or Instagram.




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Paper Aeroplanes – luminescent folk, guaranteed to bring you joy: review and interview

Paper Aeroplanes
Paper Aeroplanes

Cwtching snugly between the sounds of Laura Marling, Feist and Marika Hackman, Paper Aeroplanes are easily one of the best alternative folk bands in Wales at the moment. Their fourth album, Joy, is released on 8 April, which was written and recorded in Cardiff with the help of producer Mason Neely (Cerys Matthews, Sufjan Stevens). The band are gearing up for a 30 date European tour to promote the album, which heads to France, Switzerland and Germany before returning to the UK with a date at Clwb Ifor Bach on 16 May.

Joy is a, ahem, joy. I have to admit that their comparison to Lykkie Li didn’t enthuse me about the sound of this band. But this album is not unrelentingly mournful- quite the opposite. It sweeps you up in a breeze through rolling 80s beats (Good Love Lives On) to sparkling folk (Race You Home), and from cute, dreamy pop (Books and Joy) to haunting pianos (Caravan). It soars from being shimmeringly upbeat to powerfully atmospheric, all with a surprising depth. The flourishes of synths, strings and pianos are a welcome addition to Sarah Howells’ delicate (but never weak) voice. Richard Llewellyn’s masterful guitar shines through on tracks like Race You Home with echoes of John Martyn and Bert Jansch.

This album is a joyful celebration of unconditional love, making stories and finding warmth from the cold. Steeped in the salt-tinged air of West Wales, but with the unmistakeable influence of Cardiff’s diverse music scene, Joy is guaranteed to a be a hit.


We caught up with the band’s Cardiff-based guitarist Rich Llewellyn for a quick Q&A.

Q. What was the last book you read?

A.  Intermission by Owen Martell. A contemplative, fictional shortish story which takes a little-documented part of the life of jazz pianist Bill Evans as its starting point. I’ve also been reading The Rough Guide to Germany so I can appear knowledgeable during our forthcoming tour.

Q. Tell us a secret.

A. I have a crush on posh BBC4 historian, Lucy Worsley.

Q. What’s your favourite place for breakfast in Cardiff?

A. For an old-fashioned hearty fry up, Café Fresco in Canton.

Q. What’s your local pub?

A. The Lansdowne – great beers, lovely staff and 2 minutes from my front door.

Q. Tell us about a hidden part of Cardiff that you love. 

A. There’s a place I like to escape to when I need to clear my head, which is a very short drivefrom Canton. Countryside walk, feels like you’re miles away from the city. I can’t tell you where it is though, because then you’d go there too.

Q. If you had some friends coming to visit for the weekend, where would you take them?

A. Lilo’s Grill on city road. Great juices, tasty meze and a platter of grilled meats and rice for everyone to share.

Q. What’s the next gig that you’ll be going to in Cardiff?

A. We’re away touring a lot over the next couple of months but I’ve just seen that Chris Wood is playing in St David’s Hall in June, so I’ll definitely be getting tickets for that.


Joy is released on 8 April on Diverse records. Photo from Paper Aeroplanes.