The house lights darkened, the crowd hushed and the band climbed down the stairs onto the stage. The venue was almost pitch dark. The only lights illuminating their path were small LED lights set into plastic rings that the band members wore on all of their fingers, which in turn allowed them to see what they were playing. Each of the band members took their place, and Patrick Watson began to play "Lighthouse." The piano melody is melancholy and sounds like one of Erik Satie's gnossienne compositions, his left hand keeping a 3/4 beat while the right hand plays a series of trickling notes over the top. When Watson's almost whispered tenor breaks in, the crowd is moved into complete silence and stillness. Not a foot shuffled nor a PBR was swilled for a solid two minutes as the song shifted and swayed in waltz time, changing tempos and keys and building towards an apex. Watson's falsetto swooned and dropped, holding us rapt with its effortless beauty. As the band crashed in, dozens of clear incandescent bulbs burst into temporary brightness, sending our darkness-adjusted pupils into rapid contraction and electrifying the room.
The set was heavy with songs from their new record Adventures in Your Own Backyard, but there were a number of songs pulled from the two older records, notably "Luscious Life" from their first release Close to Paradise. If there was any criticism to make, it is that almost every song started as a slow-burner and eventually burst into elated movement. The music was not in a hurry and took it's time getting to where it was ultimately going. This was hardly a problem for most of the audience, but I can see how this may have annoyed the shit out of those of us with shorter attention spans. It seemed that most were enraptured with the beauty of the music enough to keep them engaged through the slower parts.
As an encore, Watson entertained a number of shouted requests and even played one (Beijing). He finished the set by himself, playing The Great Escape until the house lights brightened and people started to scatter.
I've seen lots of excellent music at many excellent venues in Seattle this year, but this may have been my favorite show so far. Below is a video of a live performance of "Lighthouse", the song that opened their set. Yes, the venue is completely dark for the first three minutes. Yes, that is the drummer bowing a saw at 2:06. Yes, you should watch the whole goddamn thing.