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Patrick Watson Live at Higher Ground

article by John Powell
photography by Erika Colbertaldo

The crowd stands in darkness as the band shuffles on stage to the low hum of amplifiers, and Patrick Watson’s keyboard begins. The song fills the room with the band’s usual dark patience, and still no lights.

When the five musicians are finally illuminated, it’s in what feels like a lightning storm, a hundred light bulbs popping into life, scattered and strung across the stage- a cool amber show of stage lights, and from below a series of stage lights congregate, keeping everything encapsulated in a glimmer of heated glow, a vision sympathetic to Patrick Watson’s music.

As the drums thunder and the violin howls like the wind, and as Patrick’s high, ghoulish voice sings about beauty and nature, it’s as if we’ve entered a carnival macabre, a bizarre world like our own but more like the pages of a children’s book.

In the awkward pause between songs, Patrick stands and grabs the microphone. He finds himself talking to the keyboard in front of him and is paranoid there’s ketchup on his face. While his song tempos rarely move faster than a sigh, he speaks as if in a hurry, and the combination is funny in that genuine way for the kind but somewhat shy man.

Patrick Watson

“Adventures in Your Own Backyard” opens in this live setting, into a truly haunting song- something your freakish psyche would link to childhood memories of the weird moments of play you have since repressed.

In a highlight, the band gathers around a single microphone and play a series of acoustic songs, Patrick’s face contorting as he hits the highest of notes, and his sweet melodies meander over guitars, violin, and backing harmonies.

Yet, it’s like always waiting for the rock out. Instead, they linger on the fringe of a musical orgasm without ever getting there, until the last song, which explodes into tremors of sound- not so much an orgasm as a near-death experience.

Within the set the audience has fallen asleep and awoken into Patrick’s world, an Oz where there’s always a stormy sky above, but one so beautifully gusting with clouds and sprinkled with blue sky beyond that it’s like looking into a painting. The humble and fun-loving Patrick would never see this, of course. He’s just making music, and sharing it here with all his new friends- and that’s when the applause lifts and he bows, waving farewell, and we all wake up.


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