Great Lake Swimmers at the Cedar Cultural Center, 5/3/12

Great Lake Swimmers
Cedar Cultural Center
Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Great Lake Swimmers have had a decade to build up a fan base of committed, ardent followers that they can, apparently, do no wrong by. The Ontario-based six-member band were met at the Cedar last night by an adoring crowd that was eager to sway to the lush melodies and sweet vocals of lead singer Tony Dekker.

Much of the 17-song set list consisted of tracks from the band's recently released New Wild Everywhere. The band kicked things off with "Think That You Might Be Wrong," a lush, swelling song, where violinist Miranda Mullholland's soft harmonizing matched Dekker's soothing vocals. Dekker's voice is more than pitch-perfect in a live setting: even accompanied by a multitude of instruments, his smooth tenor shines crystal clear through the sonic textures. His lyrics fill the room, hanging in the air just as heavily as the lonesome violin lines on "The Great Exhale." Great Lake Swimmers have gotten particularly good at translating their nature-inspired songs into closed-area music venues.

There wasn't really much banter between songs from Dekker, and that was just as well. At around 90 minutes when all was said and done and the GLS took their final leave, there wouldn't have been much room for artist-audience chit chat. Dekker did, however, take the opportunity to introduce the origin of the "Ballad Of a Fisherman's Wife."

"This next song I wrote for the [environmental conservation non-profit] Lake Ontario Waterkeeper Digital Music Club.... This was right around the time if that great oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," said Dekker. "I was really moved by all the headlines, and we ended up liking this song so much that we decided to include it on the new album."

The band took a break mid-set and left the stage for Dekker to continue solo for a few old gems, "Not Like Home" and "Saw You In The Wild." They slowly filed back onstage for "On The Water." If the show was starting to look a little long, the crowd certainly didn't seem to mind: between the multi-instrumentation of Erik Arnesen from guitar to banjo and Joel Schwartz on mandolin, guitar, and resonator, the couple-heavy audience had plenty to sway, cuddle, and, in some cases, waltz to.

The band closed with "Easy Come, Easy Go" before exiting the stage and filing back on again for the obligatory encore. Throughout the course of the evening, Dekker and his band had worked at building a new landscape inside the Cedar, and it was obvious that much of the audience had been drawn into their world.

Critic's Notebook

The Crowd: Couples. Lots of couples. Early twenties to thirties, generally. All very... attached to each other.

Overheard in the crowd: "Are they from Portland? They seem granola enough to be from Portland."

Random Notebook Dump: I never would have pegged GLS for a "couples" band... but wow. Now I know.

Set list:
Think That You Might Be Wrong
The Great Exhale
The Knife
New Wild Everywhere
Moving Pictures, Silent Films
Ballad Of A Fisherman's Wife
I Could Be Nothing
Not Like Home (Tony Dekker solo)
Saw You In The Wind (Tony Dekker solo)
On The Water
Your Rocky Spine
Fields Of Progeny
Everything Is Moving So Fast
Changes With The Wind
Changing Colors
Pulling On A Line
Easy Come, Easy Go
Quiet Your Mind

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