Friday, November 13, 2015

Patrick Watson @ IAH

This review was published on online music magazine Both Sides Now, see it HERE

When I found out that Patrick Watson was coming to London, I knew I had to try my best to get tickets. The name refers to both the Canadian singer-songwriter himself, and the four-piece band that sprung, somewhat accidentally, out of his solo career. The band has now produced five studio albums, each one marking a new stage in their eclectic musical exploration.

Patrick Watson’s style is hard to pin down, and they’re famed for using weird and wonderful instruments in all of their live shows. While their 2012 album Adventures in Your Own Backyard had what I would describe as a folky, acoustic sound throughout, their newest album (which this tour is promoting) Love Songs For Robots gives way to layers of instrumentation, echo and more ‘sonic’ type sounds. It makes for an emotive, contemplative listen, and one which I pretty much played on repeat leading up to the concert.

The London show was staged at Islington Assembly Hall, a renovated theatre venue that reopened in 2010 and is a generous size for its 800 capacity. Here, nobody was worried about being pushed or blocked by the crowd - we could really immerse ourselves in the music. The stage, set up with decorations matching the album’s artwork, stood high above us, framed by a beautiful proscenium arch. This set up meant that we had a great view wherever we were standing, but it was intimate enough for us to feel close to the artists and see their facial expressions and movements clearly.

The band came on and jumped straight into the album’s title track, immediately drawing people in with its cinematic sounds. The acoustics were good, with clarity through the individual instruments and Watson’s enchanting voice, the absolute highlight of the show, all of these elements working together to create a magical, poignant tone. They moved between the new album tracks seamlessly, with Watson bouncing around the stage juggling between piano playing, vocals, and at one point, a capella with all four band members gathered around one microphone. These guys were an absolute pleasure to watch as you could see that they were pouring their heart and soul into the performance and really enjoying it - it was an epic production that came across as sincere and humble.

Rather than an abundance of flashing iPhone screens, which is the sad reality of a lot of gigs these days, it was so refreshing to see everyone totally absorbed in the special atmosphere this band - in particular this incredible man - created. It was a concert that I enjoyed from beginning to end, but for me, the key moments came in the encore, when they performed Know That You Know, with its deep, soulful beats combined with Watson’s haunting voice. He then moved on to perform a stunning solo piano rendition of Adventures in Your Own Backyard from the 2012 album.

I can’t really say enough about this man and his band – watching them live was an intriguing, unforgettable experience that left me in a bit of a trance (and with tears in my eyes), the same way a great movie captivates you long after the end credits. I think Watson possesses the kind of raw talent that emerges a few times in a generation, a man totally committed to  losing himself in each moment of his performance. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for his next London visit as I would love nothing more than to watch him again.

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