There aren’t too many musicians that can sell out three consecutive nights at the MTelus but then again, there aren’t too many musicians like Patrick Watson.
A few months ago, the video for “Dream For Dreaming” appeared on my newsfeed and I was haunted for days. The image of that lonely, green puppet, combined with Patrick’s soft and gloomy tone really disturbed me. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Kermit the frog as I watched that pathetic green muppet laying in bed, singing
“I never thought the stars would look new again
Thought we’d get old, get dressed, and walk the dogs
Never really thought I’d have to be alone
I never thought you’d ever really be gone”
I downloaded Wave which is Patrick’s 8th studio album (released on October 18th ) and the more I listened, the more sadness I felt. It’s the type of record that I prefer to listen to alone, either in my car or with headphones and completely submerge myself in its dark, murky depths. November is quite a dreary month, followed by December which gets colder and let’s face it not everyone looks forward to the holidays.
I watched his interview with Tom Power on CBC’s Q and discovered that he recently went through a rough patch which explains the mood of the album. Patrick suffered the death of his mother and then a breakup, so it’s no surprise the theme for most of the songs is mourning.
I attended the first night and since I had never seen him perform live before, I really did not know what to expect. I wanted to know what all the hype was about.
True story; when I was looking for parking I drove around to the back of the MTelus where I spotted a lanky, scruffy-looking dude with wild, greying hair, enjoying a smoke. As I got closer, I noticed that he looked a little familiar. I was about to roll down my window and yell “Hey Patrick” but he looked at me with wild eyes and appeared a little freaked out. I forgot that I had been playing “Wave” on the drive down and that it was blasting from my speakers. I wish I took a photo of his stunned face as I drove by with the music he was about to perform echoing back at him, right before his show.
I arrived at the venue at around eight and managed to catch the opening act. The husband and wife duo of Simon and Erika Angell also known as Thus Owls is a Swedish-Canadian experimental indie rock band based in Montreal. It made sense since Simon used to play guitar in Patrick’s band. Their performance was pretty intense for a supporting band and they managed to get the crowd pretty riled up in a rather short amount of time.
Patrick Watson appeared on the stage a little before 9:00 and then continued to play on till a little after 11. The MTelus was completely packed and it was impossible to move without bumping into someone. I was lucky to secure a spot near the stage, eager to witness his crazy talent and quirky mannerisms up close.
I like the fact that the mostly older crowd was mixed with both English and French-speaking fans. I guess that’s one of the perks of being a bilingual musician but Montrealers are known to be enthusiastic concert-goers.
Since the tour was titled Wave I was expecting him to play only songs from the new album but luckily he threw in some older favourites. He did play the album in its entirety but switched up the order a little bit. He paused in the middle of his set to speak to the crowd, describing a long road trip before singing the psychedelic “Drive”.
People shouted out requests and comments, which he responded to graciously. Complying to their demands for one of his signature improv jams, Patrick did his best to please his fans.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Ariel Engle (La Force, Broken Social Scene) on backing vocals. She added a rich layer to the songs which enhanced the sound quality of the live performance. The band members; Robbie Kuster on guitar, Mishka Stein on bass and Joe Grass on drums were as tight as ever and really made the album come alive.
His last song before the encore was my favourite track on the new album and he played it beautifully. He gave us the backstory of the song, referring to his barber Enzo lovingly and how he gave him some wonderful insight on grief. Leaning into his piano, Patrick was able to create a unique sense of intimacy in the sold-out Mtelus. Everyone cheered as his fingers softly touched the first few keys and then the crowd hushed and became very still, allowing the music to gently wash over us.
“Nobody told you that it was going to be this hard
Something’s been building behind your eyes
You lost what you hold onto
You’re losing control
There ain’t any words in this world that are going to cure this pain
Sometimes it’s going to fall down on your shoulders
But you’re going to stand through it all
Here comes the river coming on strong
And you can’t keep your head above these troubled waters”
Once again, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Kermit the frog singing “Rainbow Connection.” It could be one of my earliest childhood memories of hearing a melancholic song. That must be it.
He did five songs for the encore, proving once again that he really cared about his audience and wanted to make them happy. Everyone sang along as he revisited tracks from earlier albums which held so many special meanings for so many different people. And that is the magic of music. Whether you are grieving or falling in love, music holds that power to soothe or awaken.
(There was a couple who were making out for the entire show, right in front of me who seemed to be annoying some of the crowd but I didn’t really mind.)
The final sound was an ocean wave washing over us, with the gentle words “Have a very good night.” The room became dark except for column of lights behind the stage which rotated for a final time as the band disappeared. The house lights came on and all that was left were beer cans on the floor and a sea of strangers scrambling towards the exits.
I couldn’t wait to get to my car so I could listen to “Wave” once again, alone.
- 1. Dreams
- 2. Wave
- 3. Strange
- 4. Melody Noire
- 5. Grace
- 6. Broken
- 7. Wild Flower
- 8. Turn out The Lights
- 9. Heart
- 10. Look at You
- 11. Drive
- 12. Here Comes the River
- Big Bird
- Places You Will Go
- Je te laissez les mots
- The Great Escape
- In Circles
Review – Annette Aghazarian
Photos – Steve Gerrard