Lewis Watson Strips Down At Thekla

by Ellie Turner

On the day of the release of his second album, Midnight, Lewis Watson chose to head to the South West. Upon arriving, it was clear why he’d decided to play at Thekla. The boat was the perfect venue for a Lewis Watson gig, with fairy lights hanging up outside and a cosy atmosphere within (ignoring the Lemmy-style sticky floors). Slowlights, a band handpicked by Watson himself, only served to further my expectations for the night ahead – they played a seamless set, preparing the eager crowd for the headline act. Their music complimented Watson’s perfectly, something I always appreciate when at a gig. They weren’t too similar to his style, but then not completely different either. Their more rock focused vibe did just what a support act is supposed to do.

The crowd were clearly growing increasingly eager for Watson to take to the stage, which he did right on time. He aptly opened with the album opener Maybe We’re Home, before explaining how excited he was about the release of Midnight. He then jokingly pointed us to the merchandise stand. Watson’s vocals are flawless live; they are even more impressive when backed with his band. This was more effective than ever before when he played his new tracks, which see a huge progression towards a ‘bigger’ sound.

He made sure to include some of his older repertoire, too. When his band left the stage a few songs into the night, Watson was left with his guitar and the particularly impressive backing vocals from the crowd. It always amazes me how loud the audiences at Watson’s gigs are. More people sung along at Thekla than the crowds of popular artists in bigger venues. It sounds cliché, but it really does create the loveliest and most friendly atmosphere, further helped by Watson chatting away to the crowd throughout the night. He played fan favourites Bones and Into The Wild, before unplugging his guitar and stepping away from the microphone to sing Halo. The crowd were left in a stunned silence; listening only to his heartfelt lyrics ripple across the room.

The new songs from Midnight were as stunning as the old ones, albeit a lot more dramatic and full-sounding on stage. Watson expertly interacted with the crowd, making sure to thank them. He thanked the audience so often that even apologised for thanking too much. He started each track with a little introduction, explaining the story behind the song – interestingly, When The Water Meets The Mountains is about spending the eve of the end of the world with a best friend and lover. These stories enhanced the magic of the album and the overall evening and showcased just how genuine Watson really is.

My personal highlight of the night was the encore. Watson and the band left the stage, leaving an extremely emotional audience behind. After much screaming, Watson emerged solo and proceeded to walk through the crowd with his guitar. He stopped right in the middle of everyone and began playing his cover of Guillemot’s Made Up Love Song #43, circling around the small space he had made for himself. He made one half of the crowd do one part of the backing vocals, with the other half covering the rest. It was a genuinely beautiful moment, and one I’m sure many people won’t be forgetting soon. If you’re after an honest, heartfelt night of music then check out Lewis Watson next time he visits – you’re in for a treat.

Photo credit: A Music Blog Yea