“There is a house built out of stone…” were the first words that I ever heard Patrick Watson sing and from that moment on, his was a voice that could capture my attention immediately. When I heard that Patrick was finally coming back to NY after I had missed him entirely last time, I jumped at the chance to finally see the man who made me shed tears at such a simple set of lyrics sang on “To Build A Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra.
Settling into my front row spot at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a large object sat off to stage right flanked by light bulbs ensconced in huge, plexiglass orbs. I idly wondered what was under the huge, gray sheet, but that wonderment was put on hold when The Low Anthem shuffled out on stage and tended to their instruments just as the lights dimmed to black.
Florence Wallis on violin and Ben Knox Miller on guitar, keys and a saw (!) were positioned directly in front of me, and although they were both shrouded in blue and magenta light that hid their faces for the majority of the performance, the lyrics and melodies they struck hit a nerve with the crowd after 1 song. Stark silence while the songs were being played to hoots and hollers once they were over seemed to surprise the humble folks in the band, thanking us graciously for coming out and engaging in awkward, endearing banter. Their sound was off-kilter ingenuity. They could come up with a melody with a piece of chewing gum and a moonshine jug if they wanted to. I’ve literally only seen a band play a saw one other time in my life, and it was used just as brilliantly here.
Their set seemed to end a bit too quickly, but when I saw the mysterious sheet removed from the large object, revealing a grand piano, I got excited for what was to come. Patrick and his band strode out onto the stage and the plexiglass orbs sparked to life. Fog and mist were pumped out to set the mood while an eager but respectful hush settled over the audience. They started with the title track off of Love Song For Robots, released just a few weeks ago. The instrumentation was abundant and lush; attention to detail was clearly paramount. I haven’t seen this much effort put into replicating every note and embellishment in song since Bon Iver and the 8-piece band on his last tour. Patrick’s voice was also as flawless as it sounds on every record. From his perch behind the piano, he was invisible to most of the crowd, but no one seemed to mind as he sang us into the best daydream, each song more ethereal and transcendent than the next.
As I made my way to the other side of the stage, Patrick finally popped up, smiling and talking to the crowd for the first time. He was clearly happy to be on stage, sharing his music, both new and old with us, and just as quickly, he was back at his seat again, hammering out the opening notes to the gorgeous but painfully short “In Circles.” The lights flickered in time with the notes, and as the beats swelled, a million laser points in a million colors shot out across the venue and made the place look like the most gorgeous galaxy you’ve never seen. People raised their phones to try to get photos of the spectacle before it disappeared.
As he sang and his band played the notes that colored so many moments of my life, and enhanced so many of my walks home, I realized that Mr. Watson’s music is the stuff of dreams. Music like this is special in its ability to instantly transport you back to a certain space in time. Just as when Patrick came bounding out from the backstage area for his encore, sat down at the piano again, and starting singing those same lines I heard all those years ago about that house built of stone. It was just as earnest and heartfelt as I heard it back then, and as I felt that familiar burning sensation at the back of my eyes, I looked around the room and men and women had already started crying. Lovers cuddled one another and let the music wash over them.
Barely 6 minutes later, with instruments unplugged and all the determination in the world, the band made their way to the middle of the crowd. We all wiped the remnants of our tears and huddled around them to hear what was next and they certainly delivered. The crowd was so silent you could hear the bartender shut the cash register downstairs.
Seeing Patrick Watson perform live is something that everyone must do in his or her lifetime. It truly was one of the best performances I’ve ever been witness to.
Article: Lesley Keller