Saturday 17th of June marked Lewis Watson’s first Melbourne gig held at the Evelyn Hotel as part of the Australian and New Zealand leg of his tour of his latest album Midnight. It was a superb night of live music from Watson which highlighted his skill as a performer and proved that simplicity and honesty can captivate an audience just as well as drama and glitz. The mix of stripped back versions and energetic numbers, which were drawn from new and old releases, and a few little surprises in their execution made it a very enjoyable evening of soft indie pop music. Credit must also go to the two support acts, Mike Waters and Winterbourne for sharing their songs and energising the crowd. Both are worthy of a recommendation, Mike Waters for his simple but sweet tunes and heartfelt banter, and Winterbourne for their cheeky attitude, upbeat clap-along tunes and electric cello.
Lewis Watson, as a pop artist has found his niche in “happy sounding sad songs”. Although he hasn’t drifted far from his ‘boy with a guitar singing about heartbreak’ roots, Midnight is a more mature evolution of this. In a live setting, the presence of a four-piece backing band was effective in maintaining the more complex sounds of this album and in giving new energy and drive to some of his simpler older songs. Having the option to swap between different instruments and differing levels of musical complexity produced interest and structure within his set; a feat not always achievable for artists that use a singer-songwriter style. This musical style blended seamlessly with Watson’s lyrics complementing their honesty and strong personal narrative element, encapsulated in ‘Outgrow’ which, as Watson informed the audience, recounts the simple joys of watching Art Attack, an art based children’s show like Playschool, as a youngster with his siblings.
There is no denying that for pub gigs the enthusiasm and behaviour of the audience is the key to a good time. Saturday’s approximately 300 strong crowd was a gem of an audience, and was evidently comprised of both new fans and ones that had been following Watson over the years since first uploading covers to Youtube in 2010. When asked, the crowd sang along surprisingly in tune to old favourites like the opening number ‘Sink or Swim’ and new releases off his recent album Midnight like ‘Little Light’. Yet it was their ability to remain so quiet during the entirely acoustic performance of ‘Halo’ that really showed their commitment to Lewis Watson and his commitment to his craft. The unplugged guitar and microphone-less version of ‘Halo’ sung by Watson and a member of his band was hauntingly beautiful. Coming from such a gentle place allowed the second half of the set the auditory space for the energy to build up to the final songs.
In conjunction with his musical talent, Watson’s natural charisma and self-deprecating wit created a close bond with the audience. Coming across as genuine, whether responding to a cheeky audience heckle or regaling us with small talk about Melbourne weather and English summers (a theme of the night, with Winterbourne also commenting on the nature of global weather patterns, specifically the Indian climate); he created comfortable breaks between songs. Whether this be through his rambling on of humorous stories about his creative sources and living at home with a proud but mischievous father – one that cheekily insisted on using Watson’s songs as his ringtone, knowing it created much frustration or even stories relating to his own songwriting. It makes a nice change to know that ‘Stay’, off his latest release, a song seemingly about another failed relationship, of which Watson had admitted that heartbreak is a reoccurring songwriting subject, is in fact about a strange but memorable dream that Watson once had.
Check out Lewis Watson’s Facebook here to keep up with his music and future tour dates. You can get your hands on this year’s release Midnight as well as previous EPs and his debut album, The Morning here.