Patrick Watson brought warmth to a chilly evening with his sold out show at the Vogue Theatre on Thursday, June 14th. Concertgoers filed into the Vogue around 8 PM, eagerly awaiting Montreal-based Patrick Watson and his band. They are on their North American tour to promote Watson’s latest release, Adventures in Your Own Backyard. On the way in I heard conversations around me that were buzzing with excitement: “this is going to be so good,” or “are you excited for how amazing this is going to be?” On top of the excited fans, playing in Vancouver was extra special for Watson— his parents had moved to Vancouver from Montreal and were seated in the center of the audience. It is safe to say that the Vogue was packed with anticipation that night.
Opening for Patrick Watson was solo act Cat Martino of Brooklyn, New York. Her set began with unexpected clapping; she used a loop pedal to create percussion tracks to sing over. Her songs had a variety of styles, ranging from ballad, to folk, to synth-heavy pop songs. This gave each piece a unique feel. It was surprising how the simple set-up of one woman, a few instruments, and a loop pedal could lay down a track that had a distinct sound. However, the sound seemed slightly empty despite help from band mate Sven lending her some beats, vocals, and extra synth. The strong suits of this set were Cat’s spot-on vocals and loop pedal finesse.
The 20 minutes following Cat Martino’s set saw the Vogue become slightly more crowded than it had been an hour earlier. The lights dimmed, and Patrick Watson and his band clambered onto a pitch-black stage, with nothing but little bicycle lights on their hands to see their instruments. A smoke machine filled the room with a dreamy haze that leant itself to the atmosphere of the music. The show began with the songs “Lighthouse”, and “Blackwind.” The lighting really picked up and began to shift with the music during the second song. Watson and his band continued to play tunes from Adventures in Your Own Backyard, all of which were supported by either intense lighting displays or projected film clips in the background.
The lighting changed according to the intended mood of each song. During the more hushed songs, the stage almost looked candle lit, and during sections of other songs, the lighting looked like the lightning of an orchestral thunderstorm. The lighting and film reels really provided the physical context for Watson’s compositions to take effect over the audience.
Musically, Patrick Watson and his band delivered a heartfelt, dynamic performance. For me, an album recording of his music does not accurately capture its emotion; the crescendos are not as poignant, and the blend of his delicate-yet-powerful falsetto voice over the band is not as effective. During his live performance, Watson was like a string instrument of sorts over an orchestra. It seemed to be the perfect blend of vocals and background. I still do not know how to classify his music, though if asked, I would probably say, “jazzy-orchestra-with-some-metal-bits-and-maybe-some-folk.” The music has a tendency to have an emotional, orchestral buildup that climaxes into a metal feel, and it is laced with interesting jazz vocals, chord dissonance, and violin.
Overall, the evening went fairly smoothly with some humourous bits throughout. Patrick Watson has a very light and quirky stage personality, which is a contrast to his heavy and dramatic compositions. He brings a playful mood to his performance. One example of this was how he would successfully complete little runs and fills in his captivating falsetto, then giggle and say, “hey, it worked! I just went for it.” Another amusing part of the night was when he and his band were huddled around a single microphone performing “Into Giants,” while they fought for a spot in front of the mic.
Towards the end of the set, a young lady wearing a furry hat (that resembled a raccoon) ran up to the stage to present Watson with what appeared to be a CD. She yelled, “I love you! We made you an album, we’re a girl band!” He then proceeded to open it and say, “and the Grammy for album of the year goes to Nickelback. Again!” Following this commotion, Watson lovingly acknowledged each of his band mates. His guitarist then began to have a snack on stage, to which he questioned, “who eats on stage? Would you like fries with that next song? We’ve been playing together for 10 years and I’ve never seen you eat on stage!”
Patrick Watson ended his set with “Adventures in Your Own Backyard,” which was followed by a standing ovation. It took but 30 seconds for the band to return to the stage for their encore, which ended with “Build a Home.”
“Wow,” the lady behind me said as Watson ended his final piece, and there really is no better-suited reaction than that to describe how his performance instantaneously makes you feel.