Concert Review: Patrick Watson @ Union Transfer 5/3
Canadian songwriter Patrick Watson performed a wonderfully serene and ferocious set at Union Transfer Thursday night May 3rd.Â The eponymous group’s songs are like orchestral progressive rock under a folk, blues and indie umbrella.Â Their tempo, rhythm and instrumentals shoot off in different directions at the drop of a hat, but are all fundamentally connected.Â A smart listener can here those connections and appreciate the beauty of such contrast in a songwriter’s work.
The band started off with â€œLighthouseâ€ from their most recent release, Adventures in Your Own Backyard, and it was as eerie and otherworldly as it is on the record.Â I felt like I was entering a fantasy world when I walked into the venue’s performance space, as the stage was dark with the musicians playing by little candle-like orchestra lights.Â When the kick drum and electric guitar came in, everything was illuminated.Â The sound was amazing- full and reverb-y and positively overwhelming.Â Watson’s voice sailed into the air like cirrus clouds outstretched across a baby blue sky.
â€œQuiet Crowdâ€ was somber and wistful, starting out with just solo piano.Â Its beautiful, slightly jazzy chord progression called to mind Rufus Wainwright’s tunes, or perhaps even Elton John’s.Â The song was â€œâ€¦dedicated to the quiet people, there are a lot of loud people in this world.â€Â The female fiddle player provided some lovely background singing in the â€œbum bum bum baâ€ section, which was followed by a nice little build-up that included bowed violin and tapping percussion.Â All of the instruments meshed well together because they were very different in timbre.
The five musicians crowded around one mic for â€œWords in the Fireâ€, a nice song to curl up and fall asleep to.Â It was written around a campfire in the wilderness, more or less commissioned by strangers the band haphazardly met up with.Â It was forlorn and intimate, very true to the recording.Â A musical saw was played with a bow, which produced a high-pitched whistle, a very nice addition to the song.Â This is a perfect example of how spontaneous music can be; you can convey anything through a song.Â Too bad there was some chatter from the crowd during this intimate, acoustic performance, but they were respectful for the most part.
â€œInto Giantsâ€ was also performed with little amplification, its vocal harmony evocative of a barbershop quartet in the line â€œstarted as lovers don’t know where it’s gonna end.â€Â It was dedicated to â€œâ€¦ the people you love in your life.Â And hopefully there are a lot.â€Â Unfortunately there was a bit of crackling interference coming from one of the mics during this song, but it was quickly rectified.Â Nonetheless, the performance was fantastic and reminded me of a band casually jamming in an old time bar in the â€˜20s.
And then there was the title track, â€œAdventures in Your Own Backyardâ€, which Watson announced through a mic with a lot of delay and boom that made him sound like the voice of the Wizard of Oz.Â It was a solitary experience, with that gently rustling guitar riff to start, and some soft, smooth background vocals.Â Watson just sang into the microphone like he was kissing it, his â€œohsâ€ coinciding with boisterous electric guitar work as the peaceful intro ramped up to a percussively quick pace.Â It eventually recapped to the slow, low strumming, and then ended with just somber, ethereal singing.
If you haven’t yet heard Patrick Watson’s songs, now would be a very good time to check them out.Â He writes the kind of music that effortlessly transports you to a different place when you’re listening with your eyes closed.