Patrick Watson at Commodore Ballroom

Saturday 24th, October 2015 / 14:02
By Paris Spence-Lang
Patrick Watson at Commodore Ballroom. Photo: Justin Uitto

Patrick Watson at Commodore Ballroom.
Photo: Justin Uitto

October 5, 2015

VANCOUVER — Some artists look like they sound. Neil Young looks as gruff as his songs, Queen looks as electric as they sound, and, well…Slipknot. But what does Patrick Watson sound like? Purely judging from his ethereal voice, perhaps an 8 foot tall, well-groomed metropolitan Sasquatch. At least, this was what I was expecting to see step on the stage of the Commodore.

But it was impossible to see Patrick Watson during the first few songs. The room was full of smoke as the band stepped out, lit from within by pale globes of light ringing the stage, and as Patrick Watson’s honeypot voice poured out from the speakers, the audience craned their necks in an effort to find him. But he remained a silhouette, shrouded by light and smoke as he hunched over his keyboard, until he rose and took the centre-stage microphone. And when he did, I was struck by the contrast of Watson’s music and himself: he has a sound full of thick mids and lows, a crooning sound that fills the room with reverb, yet Watson himself is small, thin, and prone to unconscious spasms of his arms as he sings. Not the dapper, well-dressed beast I was expecting.

But this down-to-earth-ness only served to draw compassion from his audience, a compassion which Watson returned throughout the show. Watson broke from his polished ambient style for a few acoustic songs, leading the audience in a chorus of “shh” as he brought the room to a lull. Then, sharing the story of a longtime fan who passed away before she could see his show, he led his group through an extended version of “Into Giants” that included a cappella voices and a musical saw solo. Finally, he recorded the audience singing the chorus of “Bird in a Small Cage” on his phone, saying, “You guys sang it much better than me.”

In all, Patrick Watson is clearly a man who lives for his music, and loves to share that music with others. Ecstatic on stage and loving to his fans, he creates a special experience that few performers even attempt to pursue. And that is how a man so seemingly scrawny as Watson can create so much power — by creating a visceral connection with his music. But at the end of the day, it isn’t necessary… because my god, that voice.

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