I never heard of Patrick Watson until its band materialized as a support for the Cold War Kids at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London.
To keep it simple, Patrick Watson out of the blue set was superb.
Back home, I started listening, reading and questioning the web to know more about him. How difficult and grey the days before the internet era were? I cannot even think of it.
On line I learnt that this band, named after this talented guy, is from…guess where?…Montreal, Canada. If you needed an extra confirmation about where the music is happening in present days, here you are, served.
I also learnt that they have recently won the Polaris music prize. What’s that? Good question.
I asked Wiki, it is reassuring to find out it always answers. The Polaris is the Canadian equivalent to the UK Mercury Prize. Unimpressed? Well, if few years ago it was a minor prize, in 2007 with such a renaissance of Canadian music, quite possibly competes with Mercury to be the most important album award worldwide.
To support my assertion, my next curiosity was to browse the prize shortlist to find which nominees Patrick Watson outclassed.
I was surprised to discover that they managed to outdo both ex-Broken Social Scene singer Feist with her sophisticate work The Reminder and the Dears’ stripped-down, latest effort, Gang of Losers.
I was shocked to realize that Patrick Watson triumphed over the Canadian superstars Arcade Fire and their hyped Neon Bible. The million selling, chart-topper, Glastonbury headliners, the most talked band worldwide, defeated in their own country.
I must confess, I am perversely happy, I have never been a lot into “pomp-pop” of Arcade Fire and after seeing Patrick Watson gig I think they do deserve it.
Patrick Watson walks on stage, yellow T-shirts and corduroy cap, sits on his keyboards set, finally backed by a classic line-up guitar/bass/drums, no violins, not a single cello, no weird percussion. Cool.
He starts playing but is when he starts singing that I stop photographing for a moment.
If you can imagine a sound circa Jeff Buckley meeting with Portishead at a David Lynch location to discuss the soundtrack for a Pink Floyd Meddle era documentary, you are probably quite close to the band sound. If you don’t have idea what I am talking about, you have actually very good reasons, put in the background their myspace player and come back here to finish reading.
Their sort of psychedelic nearly acoustic sound, “electronified” with effects applied to any device including Watson’s microphones, design landscapes coming from yet undiscovered Canadian fields.
Guitarist does a remarkable job to cling the sound on to the alt-rock territory avoiding it shifts into too melodious pop, performing some wonderful slide passages as well.
I got the album. As the title Close to Paradise suggests, Patrick Watson debut, is “heavenly” crafted but lacks a bit of spontaneity. Arrangements are more accurate but less sparkling than the live. A female voice is backing on The Storm; a folkish rhythm walks solemnly on Weight of the World, underlining the piano arpeggio and the singing in Luscious Life is too similar to Jeff Buckley and horns section would be, at time, avoidable. The whole thing to me sounds a bit too easy on the ear, exactly what guitarist and drummer avoided to happen on stage; said that I still strongly suggest you to catch them as soon as they materialize close to your town.
What if your long waited performer comes on stage wearing a hat as Patrick Watson’s corduroy cap.
It may seem I am short of arguments but, trust me, it occurs quite often and I had problems dealing with it.
Due to the fact that lights always come from the ceiling and/or other elevated positions, you have high chances to end up with dark shadows obscuring your subject eyes. Enough to make the pictures fruitless.
A mild flash would do the job, so go for it if you are allowed but 9 out of 10 you are not. You need to use your imagination and, that’s why liveon35mm is here, some of these tips.
Waiting for the moment the artist looks up or raises his head usually works even if it is not guaranteed that your act loves to cheer the balconies, so be ready with an alternative.
Overexposing a couple of stops can be successful if the contrast between bright lights and dark zones is not too high. There is a risk you end up with a shutter time too slow, that is why I suggest to always bring with you at least one very fast lens, 50mm f/1.4 are relatively cheap and perform wonderfully.
As a last chance you can close your eyes and desire ardently he will get rid of that bloody hat, it is your desperate option, not considering you could end up discovering that the hat was the most interesting bit of your portrait. I can’t think of anything else. If you have your own way and it is not liable to criminal prosecution, you are very welcome to share it here.