Words by: Eamon Foley | Images from: www.myspace.com/patrickwatson
Patrick Watson/Miracle Fortress :: 04.02.08 :: The Scala :: London, England
When Jessie Stein of support act Miracle Fortress strolled onto the stage, she warned us this was going to be "fucking fun." She wasn't lying as the latest act out of virile Montreal treated us to a show that had a wealth of funkiness and no shortage of jams. Some of the noodling and sound effects were somewhat spurious but by show's end they had done a lot to re-establish my desire to catch the opening act at future gigs.
In contrast to Miracle Fortress, fellow Montrealer Patrick Watson tried to set expectations low and then exceed them. A natural performer, in the unlikely event that playing music doesn't work out for him he has the ability to become a successful comedian instead. He joked about going through life with low expectations and thus never being disappointed. He warned us not to expect much and then proceeded to stomp all over any preconceived low-balling.
If Miracle Fortress reaffirmed my faith in the support act, Watson has probably prevented me from ever leaving a gig early again for fear of missing something special. He entertained from start to finish, concluding his first set with "Man Under the Sea" perched precariously on a chair in the midst of the audience, while guitar virtuoso Simon Angell strummed alongside him. This has been done before, of course, but such was the band's hold on the crowd that no microphone was needed. There were no faltering attempts to get the majority singing along, and bassist Mishka Stein and drummer Robbie Kuster chimed in with barbershop backing vocals before they closed the song out with a furious jam.
In a venue that reeked of chlorine, this performance was anything but clean. It was scattered, messy, off the wall and utterly amazing. Watson sat behind an electric grand piano or stood at the mic using effects peddles for his vocals, the echo and distortion being simultaneously wicked and weird.
Watson looks like a rambling, disheveled bum, at times appearing high as a kite and suffering from ADD. In other words, the kind of chap you wouldn't give a second glance on the street, and might even cross the road to avoid. But, out of this mess came a voice that was nothing but serene and I stood rapt, enjoying showmanship delivered with a consummate ease, as natural as breathing for most of us.
Around this amazing voice he has built a great band that jams and improvises. The source of this talent is to some extent their origins studying jazz and classical music at college. Later, group members cemented themselves through successful stints of touring. They finished up by creating an off-the-cuff jam titled "Low Expectations" that was driven and inspired by crowd participation.
Drummer Kuster brought speed and energy to Watson's vocals, while bassist Stein laid down some funk that complemented Watson's grand piano stylings. Guitarist Simon Angell did not refrain from embarking on the occasional solo, too. Their sound touched on a range from the blues to The Beatles, and was otherworldly enough to draw comparisons to Pink Floyd without feeling embarrassed. It was at times, and all at once, surreal, fun, chaotic and always special.
I find myself gushing like a groupie but this was one of the best shows I've been to in a long, long time. Watson truly exceeded any expectations. I went in not knowing a lot about them and left an enthusiastic new fan. This was definitely one of those gigs that make the backache from standing up for two hours straight worthwhile. It had it all – great musicians, intricate jams and a voice the likes of which I have not heard since Jeff Buckley. I laughed. I danced. I had a great time. I'd pay a fortune to catch these guys again, and at every opportunity. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant, in every sense of the word.
JamBase | Great Britain
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