The better late than never review of Patrick Watson’s fantastical and magical Vogue show

December 19, 2009

As usual, I’ve taken way too long to review Patrick Watson’s show at the Vogue, which happened more than a week ago. Starting a demanding job, which involves a long commute, isn’t conducive to blogging. But no apologies – it’s my blog, and I’ll write when I want to.

A friend was supposed to go to the gig but she missed it because of a business trip. I told her I would blog about it so she could get a taste of what went down, and she joked that I shouldn’t make it sound too good. Well, sorry my friend, but it was a breathtaking concert that I didn’t want to end.

The evening started with standing in line outside the Vogue, shivering in the cold. The wait was worth it because we scored perfect seats in the lower section of the theatre – not too far from the stage and not too close, which is important because people at the front will invariably stand (and they did).

The opener was Aidan Knight from Victoria, who went over well because of his endearing voice, pleasing guitar playing, and funny between-song gab/nervous energy. Too bad the Michael Cera look-alike talked too much. Less talk, more music would have been better, but I still enjoyed hearing him for the first time.

A video of Knight, not from the Vogue show, but one that shows his potential as a melancholic musician:

By the second song of Patrick Watson’s set, “Beijing”, I knew it was going to be an extraordinary concert. The song had so much going for it: Watson’s amazing vocals, his expressive piano style, the wondrous sounds of a string quartet – called “Mommies on the Run” (even though there was one guy) – and the whole band’s inspired playing (especially Robbie Kunster on drums and odd percussion). “Beijing” is arguably the best tune on Watson’s Wooden Arms album; it made an even bigger impact live. (Maybe strings are the key. When I think of concerts that really stood out for me the last few years – Sufjan Stevens, Antony & The Johnsons (twice) and Dan Mangan – they all had string sections that created beautiful textures.)

And it went on from there, one song after another where Watson and his band members created beguiling moods and never got predictable. I heard shades of Antony, Sufjan, Tom Waits and Radiohead. A Facebook friend said the music reminded her of Spiritualized. It went from alternative cabaret to purely melodic sounds to experimental electronica. At the core was Watson – musicality just oozes out of his pores. What was Pitchfork thinking when they gave Wooden Arms 3.3?

The encore was truly epic. Watson put on a fantastical contraption straight out of Dr. Seuss: a backpack with five, lit-up megaphones extending out from it. His voice was projected through the megaphone machine, and one musician also plugged in. Meanwhile the other instrumentalists, including Kunster playing a saw, went up to the balcony – their unamplified music wafted through the fading theatre. A magical end to a remarkable concert.


One comment

    I am glad it was great, really. Resentful that I had to sell my tickets – definitely.
    Sounds like magic.

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