SYDNEY FESTIVAL: Patrick Watson – The Famous Spiegeltent (13.01.10)


It’s day 5 of Sydney Festival, and the first round of artists are coming to an end. Tonight marked the final performance in the Spiegeltent of Montreal’s Patrick Watson, who went on to play at Beck’s Festival Bar (replacing The Middle East and supporting Grizzly Bear) for his final Sydney gig – and we were there!

Those who have had the pleasure of witnessing a performance in the Spiegeltent will believe me when I say this is a venue which provides an amazing experience without fail – and tonight Patrick Watson was no exception. In front of a sold out crowd of 300-or-so, surrounded by the wares of a travelling circus tent built many many decades ago, as the rain started to pour outside (cue excited giggle from Mr. Watson).

Patrick Watson is the sort of performer who makes you feel like he’s your best friend from the minute he hits the stage – down to earth banter (starting a song with “….and she rolls like this…” was simply fantastic), an excitable laugh throughout the evening, and even a foray into performing without a microphone in the audience to perform “Man Under the Sea” in the encore, before closing with the beautiful “Underneath the Song Lights”. You almost felt like you were in his home having a beer with him, while he just threw a little ditty together on the piano.

And as such, you were wholly a part of the on stage festivities, and this made it a unique experience in every sense of the word. Speaking of unique – never have I seen a man bash pots and pans and saws with such passion as Robbie Kuster – more than a drummer, this man is the percussion MACHINE. And the rest of his band were just as impressive, with guitarist Simon Angell and bassist Mishka Stein wowing us all, as they aptly supported the front man. I particularly enjoyed what looked like a banjo ukulele, which Simon Angell whipped out for one number. 

The majority of the set centered on his latest album, Wooden Arms, with “Beijing”, “Wooden Arms”, “Big Bird Small Cage” and “Where The Wild Things Are” among the tracks of the incredible album. And of course, “To Build a Home” proved a highlight for most in the room, some notably wiping away tears during the evocative number.

Patrick Watson is simply an amazing performer, with songwriting abilities above and beyond his years, piano skills second-to-none, and a voice that really makes you wish you could actually go that octave lower so you can sing along without embarrassing yourself. Indeed, he had us sing along during “Man Under The Sea”, and indeed, I embarrassed myself. But did I enjoy myself? Hell yes.

I really love this time of year. Sydney Festival knows just how special live music can be. Now if only we could spread that sentiment to 12 months of the year!

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.