Written by Mike Gallagher
It was a double dose of Montreal Thursday night as Patrick Watson and the Barr Brothers sought to end months of relentless touring supporting their most recent albums at Massey Hall.
Massey Hall is my favourite venue in Toronto and it has been a treat for me to see everybody perform there. The night began with the distribution of knuckly lights that initially I mistook for Hershey’s Kisses.
I’ve heard the name the Barr Brothers before but not any of their music. At the recommendation of a friend who offered to do a rain-check on meeting up so I could catch them, I arrived at the venue early – and so did a lot of other people.
Not familiar with any of their songs, I can’t tell you exactly what they played but I can tell you they blew me away. Sounding like a folked-out Spiritualized, the Barr Brothers offered up a rapturously received 40 minute set. The stage banter was a bit awkward but they were humbled to be playing Massey Hall and to be bringing 15 months of touring to an end.
I saw Patrick Watson 6 years ago at the Drake Underground just before he released his second album, Closer to Paradise. I was surprised at how good his songs were and the complex textures in his live presentation. For some reason I forgot about him after that.
His 2007 collaboration with the Cinematic Orchestra (“To Build A Home”) resonated the most with me until the release of his latest album, the impressive Adventures In Your Own Backyard. It’s a beautiful platter, leaving one to ask the baffling question why Watson doesn’t enjoy a greater profile.
Still, the man pulled in a good crowd to Massey Hall and he seemed to be giddy seeing all the knuckle lights illuminating the room. Playing in between what looked to be two giant speaker cones, Watson and his band opened with three cuts from his newest album with minimal lighting but maximum effect. He played most of the new album and peppered some of his older songs in the set. But no “To Build A Home”.
Watson mentioned the end of a year on the road and while he sounded weary, I think it was the superior performance of the Barr Brothers that made Watson seem a bit underwhelming.
The songs were beautiful, Watson’s voice is stunning, yet it felt something was missing and I couldn’t think of anything other than he was simply upstaged by his openers.