Friday, March 13, 2009

Reviews:: A night with the Great Lake Swimmers & Kate Maki

If you looked at the Great Lake Swimmers show as one of those movies that flashes back from a crucial point, you’d probably have to start at the unexpected standing ovation given to Tony and his band. From the wooden pews of the beautiful church, people jumped to their feet and showed their gratitude for the show we had just witnessed. While this might be a common occurrence in other cities, they are few and far between in the city by the sea.

The evening started with Kate Maki – a one time Halifax native – warming up the crowd. Being a fan of her last record, I was happy to sit through her tender acoustic tracks, but when she pulled former Guthries, Ruth Minnikin, Serge Samson and Brian Murray to play with her, the set was instantly fused with energy. Kate was playful, often asking the crowd to be more vocal – assuring us all that just because we were in a church didn’t mean we couldn’t talk – and the thicker sound of classics like Blue Morning, To Please and White Noise really helped the crowd stay attentive. Ending it with a Neil Young, crowd sing-along didn’t hurt either.

But undoubtedly, the crowd was there for the Great Lake Swimmers. For many artists, the setting would be daunting, even overwhelming but for Dekker and the rest of the Great Lake Swimmers, the acoustics and majesty of the setting seemed to match their sound perfectly. When I was talking to him earlier in the day (listen to the interview here), he mentioned that they are trying to play in more building with unique acoustics on this tour, and that comfort level was obvious.

For most of the fans in attendance, it was a chance to finally hear material from Lost Channels (review here) and see how the old songs would sound with the support of a bigger band. Dekker is a perfect front man for this type of setting: unassuming, charming and immensely talented. The lights cast long shadows over his slender frame, but the new band provides tons of support for his quiet demeanor. Julie Fader’s keys, piano and backing vocals lightly echoed around the church and the percussion, stand up bass and banjo really crackled.

Tracks like Pulling On a Line, She Comes to Me In Dreams and Palmistry – in all its REM goodness – exploded from the speakers, but Dekker also stripped back all the layers on new songs like Still and Concrete Heart and offered a bit on insight as to their origins (who knew that Concrete Heart was a commissioned song about Toronto architecture from 1950-1970?). More importantly, you can tell the band appreciated the show and had a good time playing as there were as many smiles on stage as there were popping up on faces in the crowd.

It was pretty nice to see the band rework some classic tracks too. Dekker got the crowd to stamp along to a rollicking version of Your Rocky Spine and I barely recognized the new, spirited version of I Am Part of a Large Family. Honestly, GLS are already on their way – a solid back catalog and major label support – but with this new setup, the energy and strength of Lost Channels and a live show that will satisfy the long time fan and casual listener, they might be on their way to becoming a household name.


Kate Maki - Blue Morning

Great Lake Swimmers - Palmistry

Great Lake Swimmers - Your Rocky Spine

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Posted at 6:45 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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