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Gig Review: Backdoors, Bengaluru

Eclectic, intimate sets by Patrick Watson, José González and a stunning tour-closing performance by Steven Wilson


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The sold-out debut edition of music fest Backdoors hosted over 2000 attendees on the tennis lawns of Indiranagar Club.

Three festival shows into Steven Wilson’s India tour, it may seem like the UK prog partisan, knowingly or not, steals the spotlight everywhere he performs—whether closing out Shillong’s second edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender in October, thrilling a crowd of 15,000-odd fans on Day 2 of the Pune edition, or ending the first edition of Bengaluru’s newest music fest on a high (or low, if you consider his penchant for “sad, melancholic music”). But that’s not to say Backdoors was simply a Wilson-centric show. Canadian singer Patrick Watson and Swedish folk artist José González’s delicate sounds created a bubble of intimacy, charming the few thousands who had gathered on the tennis lawns of Indiranagar Club.

Despite cutting it close with Wilson’s soundcheck finishing half an hour before gates opened, Backdoors ran without a hitch. Besides, it was plain pretty—the Secret Garden theme saw the tennis lawns transform into a cozy, fairy light-illuminated, white canopy-speckled venue. But most importantly, Backdoors brought some of Weekender’s most popular, heavily attended acts together within a more laid-back, limited-capacity setting.

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José González’s delicate sounds, exemplified by tunes like “Crosses,” created a bubble of intimacy as the Swedish folk artist kicked off the evening.

A perfect setting, of course, for José González and co.’s gentle folk sensibilities that had listeners hooked right from the mellow opener “Crosses” (off the eponymous 2003 EP) to more pulsating material like “Hand On Your Heart.” González and his band from across London, Sweden and Los Angeles may have carried over much of their Pune set from the previous day to Backdoors, but sounded fresh as ever through the 45-minute set, occasionally blooming into denser material like “What Will.”

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Canadian singer-songwriter Patrick Watson and his band flitted through slowburn folk rock, pop rock and even a few avant-garde moments.

While González presented his tunes with soft-spoken minimalism, Canadian singer-songwriter Patrick Watson and his band had something different to offer. Resplendent lighting, goblets of smoke billowing across the stage, and an almost endearing sense of synchrony amongst the members were a constant as they pulled out crowd-pleasers like “Hearts” and “Drifters”. Watson for his own part, alternated between a baby grand piano and taking centerstage as the band flitted through slowburn folk rock, pop rock and even some avant-garde piano pounding on “Adventures In Your Own Backyard. But even before Watson and bane were through with set closer “Places You Will Go,” most onlookers were already headed to the stage on the other side of the court to secure a front-row spot for Wilson’s big show.

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Steven Wilson’s Bengaluru set was the third stop of the UK prog musician’s India tour and marked the end of a 152 show long-tour.

For “show number 152 and the “very, very last concert of the Hand. Cannot. Erase tour,” Wilson brought every bit of prog rock perfection to close out the debut edition of Backdoors. Quadrophonic sound and mastercrafted visuals are a given, making it less of a set and more of a spectacle to behold. But it was moments like Dave Kilminster’s sublime solo on the haunting “Ancestral” (complemented by an ominous shower of rain), Craig Blundell’s blistering drum rolls on “Index, Nick Beggs’ thundering Chapman bass on “Home Invasion” and “Vermillioncore,”Adam Holzman’s heady synths on “Sleep Together” and of course, Wilson’s heart-rending plea on set-closer The Raven That Refused to Sing”—enough to have moved grown men in the audience to tears—that define the “immersive live experience” the frontman always promises. In a welcome surprise, Wilson switched things up with the chilling disquiet of “Don’t Hate Me” and a cover of Prince’s “Sign O’ The Times, both first-time performances on his India tour.

And although Wilson may have closed out with one of the most depressing songs from his discography—“the best song I’ve ever written, he declared—it’s safe to say the debut edition of Backdoors ended on a high. With the next edition of Backdoors already slated for the first half of 2017, newly accrued fans of the event won’t have to wait too long for the next set of international bands to land in the country.

All photos courtesy of Backdoors/The Humming Tree.

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