The Great Lake Swimmers are the essence of Canadian Folk music. A live performance in plaid shirts, with fantastically smooth acoustic guitars and a sound that can be likened to wood smoke leaving a log cabin in the middle of remote Northern Ontario. The Alix Goolden Performance Hall proved a perfect venue for them: Arched ceilings, decorative stained glass, and traditional wooden pews. A converted church sanctuary, the hall retains much of its former austerity, a trait I feel was shared by both the folk rock music of the Great Lake Swimmers and their audience that night.
After starting the set off by playing four or five songs off their new record, New Wild Everywhere, the Ontario native band later launched into some of their older material. Tracks like Pulling on Line, Your Rocky Spine, and Changing Colours elicited pleased cheers of recognition from the crowd. About halfway through the show, we watched as members of the band started to slowly trickle away from our vision, song by song, until only lead singer and guitarist, Tony Dekker, stood alone beneath the spot light. Impressive when backed by a full band, his voice was equally enthralling whilst performing unaccompanied but fore his single acoustic guitar. After a few soulful numbers on his own, most of them off the new album, the remaining five members returned once again to the stage for a powerful and fitting rendition of I am Part of a Large Family.
Overall, the Great Lake Swimmers put on a brilliant and surprisingly vivacious show, given the relaxed nature of their recorded music. Certain bands translate perfectly from their albums to live performance and vice versa. However, the Great Lake Swimmers are not one of these bands. Believe it or not, much of their great depth of sound only comes through during their live performance, in a way I definitely wasn’t expecting! A highly recommended live show.
Opening for GLS earlier in the evening was Cold Specks, a young singer-songwriter from Etobicoke, Ontario. Relatively new on the music scene, she played the acoustic guitar and sang to us. And boy, can she sing. Most of her songs have minimal guitar accompaniment, a few chords at most. But rather than render her performance uninteresting, it only serves to emphasize the incredible range and unique quality of her voice. Soulful and rich, her one-of-a-kind sound makes her an artist to keep an eye on in the next few years!