As we moved into the final month of 2016, we hit the road north of the US border once again for our most recent weekend of great live music. Arriving in London, ON (the furthest point west we’ve yet visited in this province), we spent some time at “Grooves” record store downtown, before making our way to the wonderful Aeolian Hall. Playing their second night of back-to-back evenings at this venue, Great Lake Swimmers headlined this particular show, although both bands had equal stage time and an equal 12-song set list.
Toronto-based three-piece act “Elliott Brood” kicked off the evening with their lively brand of alternative country-rock, with Mark Sasso and Casey Laforet splitting the vocal duties throughout the set. With no current new album to promote, Elliott Brood would pull material from across their entire back catalog, much to the delight of the crowd in the sold out hall.
Mark led off with “WWYHMB” from their “Ambassador” album, and the band played several tracks from this album including “Jackson” and “Johnny Rooke.” Casey took the vocals on “Northern Air” from the “Days into Years” album, and the recent hit “Jigsaw Heart” from “Work and Love.”
Other songs of note performed this evening included “The Valley Town” from “Mountain Meadows,” along with a cover version of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” and a new track that hinted of fresh material coming soon in the near future. Elliott Brood closed their wonderful set with fan favorite “Oh Alberta,” which drew many from the seats to dance in the aisles and appreciate the great performance.
After a brief interlude, Great Lake Swimmers took to the stage, although violinist Miranda Mulholland was unfortunately not available for this tour due to other commitments. In similar fashion to a Great Lake Swimmers concert that we attended back in May, rising Toronto folk singer Megan Bonnell stepped in early in the set to fulfill the backing vocals duties. The lack of violin presents a unique challenge to creating a set list, and although this meant that material from the highly acclaimed “New World Everywhere” album would be omitted, Great Lake Swimmers pulled some classic tracks out of their bag to complement the more recent “Forest of Arms” tunes.
Vocalist Tony Dekker opened the show with “Backstage with the modern dancers”, the first of four tracks from their “Ongiara” album. Other tracks drawn from this 2007 release included “There Is a Light,” “Your Rocky Spine,” and “Put Them By the Land.” Megan Bonnell added her perfectly pitched backing vocals to the more recent offerings from “A Forest of Arms,” including “Something Like a Storm” and the radio favorite “Zero in the City.”
The 2009 album “Lost Channels” was also well represented, with live versions of “New Light”, “She Comes to Me in Dreams” and the always delightful “Pulling on a Line.” After hearing the song “Somewhere Near Thunder Bay” live for the second time this year, I could not place the album from which this was taken. I would later find that this track is from Tony’s 2013 solo venture “Prayer of the Woods,” and I can happily report that we have since added this album to our collection for further listening pleasure.
Great Lake Swimmers pulled off a great 12-song set list, and it was nice to become reacquainted with some of those lesser played pieces that the band performed. Elliott Brood returned to the stage to join Great Lake Swimmers for a two-song encore that showcased a recent musical collaboration between the two bands. With cover versions of two iconic songs, Tony Dekker handled the lead vocals on The Byrds’ “One Hundred Years from Now,” while Mark Sasso reciprocated on the Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line.” The packed house at the Aeolian Hall rewarded both bands with a standing ovation before heading for the exits to close a great night.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Casey Laforet for allowing us to drag him away from packing up his musical gear to chat with us about his music and how Elliott Brood have graced our airwaves in Pennsylvania thanks to satellite radio. We were also grateful that both Casey and Mark would kindly autograph three of our CDs for us.
Additionally, we would also like to thank Great Lake Swimmers lead guitarist and banjo maestro, Erik Arnesen, who spent time chatting with us, and shared news concerning upcoming tours in both Michigan and Eastern Canada. Congratulations are in order for Erik and his wife who will welcome their first child into the world in early 2017, which will unfortunately (but understandably) keep Erik from touring around that time. Erik also went out of his way to gather together all other band members to spend time with us and autograph our CDs. Tony Dekker took time as well prior to our exit to provide autographs and share a photo opportunity with us.
A great night of music and entertainment was shared on this night in London by two of Canada’s amazing bands. If either Elliott Brood or Great Lake Swimmers happen to play in a town near you, miss them at your own peril. We shall certainly be catching up with both bands again at some point in the not-so-distant future.