Let me begin by saying I was beyond ecstatic upon learning that I’d be seeing Lewis Watson play live. His latest record, ‘midnight’ was a release I’d counted down the days to listen to. Needless to say, expectations were high. I would witness the last show of his Australian tour this June. The singer-songwriter was supported by Harry Heart and Helen Shanahan, both of whom delivered pleasant acoustic sets ahead of Watson himself.
Promoting ‘midnight’, Lewis Watson took to the stage with a four-piece band surrounding him. “I’m Lewis Watson, this is my wonderful band. We’re here to end our tour in this wonderful place. We’re going to play some songs.” Opening with ‘maybe we’re home’ was fitting, as the track also serves as the opener on the record. Delivered with soul and whatever dancing was manageable from behind a guitar and microphone, Watson began on a high note.
It soon became clear that the show was not just about highlighting the artist’s newest tracks from ‘midnight’, but celebrating his previous works too. With an extensive back-catalogue of songs released in various EPs and previous studio album ‘the morning’, seven out of the fifteen original songs performed were not present on ‘midnight’. It was a nod to the success and following he’d gained before the release of ‘midnight’. Fan favourites such as ‘sink or swim’, ‘bones’ and ‘castle street’ were among those Watson played. When he did so, he encouraged the audience to sing along if they knew the words. Many did.
During the set, Watson took time to play a few songs solo. He informed the crowd that this way, the songs could be heard the way he originally intended them to sound, especially with ‘into the wild’. With nothing but an acoustic guitar and his voice, the songs stood for themselves and created an atmosphere that seemed smaller than what is was. Watson went on to unplug his guitar and step away from the microphone to perform ‘halo’, standing on the edge of the stage. The audience gave complete silence when it wasn’t asked for; it was one of the most memorable moments in the entire show.
That being said, it was the variation of having a full band backing up the artist that made it such a standout. When they joined Watson again, the energy picked up with ‘forever’; it was a great re-creation of what was on ‘midnight’. Songs from the record like ‘forever’, ‘give me life’ and ‘little light’ carried an energy that wouldn’t be the same if performed solo. They were done complete justice.
Something I thoroughly enjoyed about Watson was his explanations about why he wrote particular songs and what they meant to him. It provided context that artists sometimes don’t give their audiences. For example, before he played ‘when the water meets the mountains’, he said “In my version of the apocalypse, there’s a big flood and everyone dies.” Morbid or not, the song made a lot more sense after hearing that. Watson explained the memories of himself and his sister associated with ‘outgrow’ and the dream he had that inspired ‘stay’. It was insight into why he wrote what he wrote and I appreciated that.
At the conclusion of the show, the band left the stage, Watson unplugged his guitar and wandered into the centre of the room. Surrounded by his audience, he played one last song; ‘Made Up Love Song #43’ originally by Guillemots. Perhaps Watson’s most well-known cover, some shined lights from their phones onto the singer as he serenaded the venue for the last time. As he started out covering his favourite songs on YouTube, this was a fitting end to the night.
Overall, ‘midnight’ was brought to life far away from where it was first thought up, written and recorded. I don’t think Lewis Watson could have delivered more. On top of travelling constantly for months on end and probably fighting the want for a year-long nap at the time, he did what he does best; perform. I was wonderstruck on the night and still am.