Toronto 5-piece Great Lake Swimmers excel at creating mood. Their 2003 self-titled debut was an exercise in minimalist ambiance. As the band has grown and gotten more confident, they’ve ventured into more polished production styles. Newest record New Wild Everywhere is their most accessible, but also their least atmospheric.
The 19-song set Thursday night at Radio Radio touched on points throughout their catalog, including Moving Pictures Silent Films from the first album, though with the expected focus on the new release. Four of the first five songs were from Everywhere. Opener Think that You Might Be Wrong offered a strong start. Reminiscent of fellow Canadians City and Color, the song has a sweeping hook and benefits from male/female vocal interplay. Changes with the Wind was a slight but enjoyably poppy track. The Knife, however, failed to engage, and highlighted the show’s main issue: After about 10 songs, the “same”-iness crept in. Even their best known songs, like Your Rocky Spine, blended too much.
The main set ended well with Everywhere’s title track and Easy Come Easy Go, but those upbeat numbers were in short supply. The band was on point technically and sounded great; a little more variety and more energy would have helped. Or maybe Great Lake Swimmers is a band that’s better in smaller doses.
Opening band The Pines, on the other hand, was tremendous. I knew nothing about them going into the show and they blew me away. The band’s haunting and atmospheric folk was captivating. Their music would be the perfect soundtrack for a late night drive or a quiet evening on the back patio. Extremely impressive performance.
One final note: The crowd was unusually noisy. For two bands on the quieter side, that’s not going to work. Perhaps the music wasn’t completely absorbing, but the banter was excessive. And if you’re going to chatter inanely with your friends throughout an entire set, don’t stand near the front of the stage. It’s disrespectful to the bands and those around you. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
What did you think of the show?