Published Dec 14, 2009While we expect a live show to reveal something extra about an artist, in the case of Polaris Music Prize winner Patrick Watson, it's often about seeing how much you've missed in the songs you thought you knew from back to front. The madcap Montreal rocker's performance at Toronto's spacious Queen Elizabeth Theatre, just as in the past, offered one more rapturous exhibition of all of the things you really must see to truly appreciate in a Watson record.
After an opening mini-set filled with the undulating percussive turns, effects-laden horn swells and quizzical vocals from adventurous the Luyas, Watson and company took the stage and quickly made sense of their theatre venue choice. Kicking things off from behind a film screen, the eight-piece ensemble burst into sound as the screen rose to reveal the stage engulfed in a projection of roaring flames. Various projector techniques went on to play an integral part in the theatrical showcase, particularly on the spectacular "Travelling Salesman," which had the crew appearing backlit behind the screen in twisted-silhouette form, as Watson revealed his megaphone-trumpet playing prowess.
That ingenious muted megaphone trick, much like drummer Robbie Kuster's unwieldy percussive arsenal, or Simon Angell's controlled electric guitar rage, are elements that simply don't translate well in the Wooden Arms recordings. But it's the many details — like seeing the "Mommies on the Run" quartet singing into their instrument-mounted microphones on "Big Bird in a Small Cage" — that make this travelling cabal such a joy to watch.
To that point, the band saved their biggest treat for the encore, when Watson donned a makeshift megaphone backpack so the crew could carry their show to the aisles, yet another of many innovative surprises that will no doubt consecrate Patrick Watson billings as must-see events.