by Mica McCurdy

This past Wednesday Great Lake Swimmers took the stage after what appeared to be a raucous Rural Alberta Advantage set (which I sadly missed thanks to poor work/life balance). The night was a part of a Live at Massey Hall, a new live concert and concert film series.

Great Lake Swimmers started slowly; it wasn’t until the third song, “Put There By The Land”, that they hit their stride with lighting and sound to justify the space. Accompanied by three additional violins and one cello, the backing strings provided a powerful platform to enhance the bands natural, individual talent, and built a drawn out bridge in to “Pulling on a Line”. In this moment, they seemed bigger than themselves, with the sound and lighting amplifying the sentiments of the song. They managed to overcome the stage/audience divide and pulled directly on our heartstrings, which carried through the evening.

Each song there after had a stand out moment, first with the banjo part in “Your Rocky Spine” (for which the crowd went wild) and then with the added strings part during “Song for the Angels”, which front man Tony Dekker delivered solo otherwise. Drummer Joshua Van Tassel shone in the intro to “Everything’s Moving So Fast”, where his skill built back the energy lost in Dekker’s acoustic moment and then again with the atypical rhythm break in “I Am Part of a Large Family”. The vocals were on point all night, but especially so in “Talking In Your Sleep”, a single from Dekker’s solo album, where the harmony was front and centre. Their voices were so perfectly in sync that it simultaneously showcased their individual talent while creating what sounded like just one voice.

While the set ended with an encore of Neil Young’s “Long May You Run”, the true finale was an overwhelmingly beautiful performance of “Still”. Stripped down, acoustic, and with all band members gathered around one mic, they made Massey Hall feel as intimate as listening to them in the privacy of our bedrooms, late at night, wondering what this thing we call life is all about.