Show Review + Photos: Patrick Watson in Columbus, OH 12/04/12

One of our out-of-state writers (soon to be a resident of Georgia), Hannah Cook made the short drive from her home in Athens, Ohio to Columbus to see Patrick Watson at one of his few US shows that round out the year. While we don’t have any word that Patrick will be touring in the Southeast in early 2013, we wanted to give you a heads up on what you can expect from this man of many talents when he does make it down here. Enjoy. 

Photos: Kyra Willner & Julia Leiby 

Patrick Watson is not just a musician; he is a creator of soundscapes. He is a cinematographer of sound, somehow materializing unknown, beautiful lands right before your ears—or rather in between them. Some may think that it takes a child’s mind (or drugs) to shape wild imaginations, but with Watson’s music, it’s simple, as a boggled-down 20-something year old, to fall into a dream-like state and wish to never come out.

The Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio was a fitting venue for all of this musing to take place. With the complex, modern architecture, I thought I was apart of some Inception and found myself looking for Leonardo DiCaprio and the actual entrance to the building simultaneously and frantically. Finally, the entrance basically appeared out of what must have been some bend of the mind. Leo would have been impressed.

After weaving in and out of artsy-fartsy photographs and big white walls, the pitch black venue was finally in sight, honestly looking like some sort of hidden, illegal nightclub in contrast.

We walked in for the end of the opener, Mike Wojniak, supported by a band five or so people big. From the last few songs we witnessed, it seemed like Wojniak and company were musically impressive and in tune, but uncomfortable. Maybe it was the atmosphere or maybe it was them, but they just weren’t all that moving.

Watson and his bandmates, on the other hand, could move mountains. The five of them came on stage modestly, and took their places in front of their respective instruments—Robbie Kuster, Simon Angell on guitar, Mishka Stein on bass, Melanie Belair on violin and Watson on his piano bench.

The stage was unlit and night-like, the only glow coming from the band’s fingers, oddly, as it delved into “Lighthouse” off of the band’s most recent release, Adventures in Your Own Backyard. Watson’s airy voice and genius piano playing echoed in the dark, leaving the actual sight in front of us up for interpretation. The singing saw wallowed its way in, along with eloquent strings. Radiance of the back lights rose like the sunrise of sounds happening before us. The crowd was in awe.

The performance continued in similar nature, and although each song, paired with a funky projection/light display, provided for us a different landscape, the feel of the night remained joyous every step of the way.

Every single song Watson played was the peak of the performance, from “Luscious Life” to “Beijing” to “Noisy Sunday.” Angell, sitting down to play guitar, jerked around in his seat, pressing the many who-nots and pedals with his feet, while Kuster pounded away impulsively on his drum kit, subconsciously chomping his jaw to keep rhythm.

The band left too soon, but came back swiftly for an encore, which consisted of an intimate version of “Man Under the Sea.” Watson and Angell stood on two chairs in the middle of the audience. We circled them as Watson struggled to not fall off his wobbly chair and Angell played acoustic guitar. Stein, Kuster and Belair remained on stage, playing their unplugged instruments. Eventually Watson had us join him in singing “It’s just me, the fish and the sea,” first loudly, then quietly to a whisper, before leaving the ground for the stage to finish the song brilliantly.

Watson ended their set solo with “The Great Escape” off of Close to Paradise. Just he and his piano, Watson was comfortable, and he eased us into the dreaded end like a mother eases her frightened infant into a bathtub.

We could all have stayed there forever, if time would have allowed it. But alas, real life called for us. Shortly after the set, I was towed and, in a grouchy haste, almost forgot that I had just seen Patrick Watson play my favorite songs only feet away.

But whether it’s in his goofy presence on stage, or the very nature of his songs in general, it’s clear that Patrick Watson is a happy man, and that he wants everyone else to be happy, too. So never mind a stupid towing fee. I had just seen something amazing and that’s far better than bad luck is worse.