Last night Patrick Watson kicked off his tour in support of Love Songs for Robots, his upcoming album, at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, QC. The tight, intimate setting of the Black Sheep Inn played host to a small number of eager fans who grabbed their tickets as soon as they could, itching for the very first taste of Patrick Watson’s new material. Fortunately, I was one of the lucky few who had a ticket to the sold-out show. Although I did not know this until the day of the show, Patrick Watson’s tradition is to play the band’s new album front-to-back during the album release tour. Without further ado, here is the first opportunity for fans to get a little insight on what to expect when Love Songs for Robots comes out on May 12.
Hearing Love Songs for Robots in its entirety for the first time was a moving and powerful experience. For the duration of the album, I was transported into something different. It came from the same dramatic, passionate, and emotionally-driven space as Patrick Watson’s previous work, but it had qualities that were quite unlike anything he had already released. Adventures in Your Own Backyard, the band’s previous album, had an overall positive vibe that seemed to take the listener on an adventure, making the album true to its name. The songs were constructed around moving from one separate section to the next. Love Songs for Robots seems to revert back to the earlier format of Close to Paradise, in which the songs build and expand within a more structured verse-chorus-bridge style. Nevertheless, Love Songs for Robots has an other-worldly sound that transported me into space. Watson’s whispering voice lay overtop of an atmospheric blanket which covered the room. At times the music seemed to slowly bounce, as if in zero-gravity. This would be followed by a powerful, driving song that knocked me back with sheer force. I was also happy to hear some of the frantic, crashing dissonance from their earlier albums made a thunderous return in these new songs. This will be an album that does it all.
As this was the first performance, naturally there were some moments that were a bit rough around the edges. Without a doubt, each performance on this tour will be tighter and more precise. Still, the band delivered their new material expertly, to the great pleasure of every lucky member of that audience. Patrick’s piano work sounded as lush as it always has. Joe Grass’s guitar playing, whether playing a lap slide, laying down electric solos and leads, or serenading us with mobile finger-picking, was on point. Mishka Stein’s bass work provided the warm anchor, and reasserted himself as one of my favourite bass players. As expected, Robbie Kuster’s drumming blended rock, jazz, marching band, and whatever else it is that he does to get a totally unique style that is so prominent in all of Patrick Watson’s music. Finally, we were treated to a new member of the band, whose name I unfortunately did not catch. He added some extra keyboards and synthesizers to give that extra spacey sound that Love Songs for Robots requires. He also pitched in with some quality baritone work, from time to time adding that full brassy sound to the mix.
Love Songs for Robots was not the only item on the setlist, as the audience was treated to a few classics. My highlight was an impromptu unplugged rendition of “Man Like You”. We also got beautiful renditions of “Into Giants”, “Big Bird in a Small Cage”, and “Adventures in Your Own Backyard”.
This first look at the full Love Songs for Robots was an incredible peek into what I expect to be one of the best albums of 2015. Don’t miss it when it drops May 12, and if you want to hear it before the release date make sure to catch him on this tour, you won’t be disappointed.