Having spent considerable time in “concert hibernation,” Team GDW were certainly ready and willing to grab the passports, load up the car, and enjoy a weekend getaway in southern Ontario for our first taste of live music in 2017.   We returned to the Burlington Performing Arts Centre for their “Live and Loud Music Series,” which featured local recording artists Laura Cole and Tomi Swick.  We were impressed with the intimate set-up of the smaller ‘community theatre’ within the PAC, and took our seats front and center of the stage knowing that both artists would enjoy and engage with the 150 or so appreciative fans in the room.

Accompanied on stage by her guitarist Chris Chiarcos, Laura Cole opened the show to the delight of the crowd.  Friends and family were clearly in attendance, with compliments being sent Laura’s way prior to the first song.  With an eleven track set list, Laura not only drew material from her “Dirty Cheat” and “Human” albums, but also road-tested a few newer tracks and added a couple of cover versions for good measure.

With Chris cranking out the rhythm on his electric guitar, Laura led off with “Woman Be Wise,” before engaging the crowd with “Death Row” from her debut album.  Laura would return to the “Dirty Cheat” album throughout the night, with outstanding renditions of “The Only One,” “Sweet Escape,” and the crowd-pleasing “On My Own” as the closing piece.  Tales of her visits to the UK to collaborate with Harvey Summers (as recently reviewed by Team GDW) opened the door to both the blues-soul vibe of “Risk Love” and “Shooting Star” from the “Human” album.

With her distinct musical style, it makes perfect sense that Laura Cole has drawn numerous comparisons to the likes of Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse.  Not at all intimidated by such comparisons, Laura took advantage of a set list that perfectly demonstrated her vocal versatility (from the sultry ‘heartbroken’ to the up-tempo ‘heartwarming’ whilst never missing a beat). She further delighted the crowd with two cover versions that certainly confirmed her status as a true soul and blues performer: the Etta James track “I’d Rather Go Blind” and the Randy Newman penned/Bonnie Raitt hit “Guilty.”  Both covers remained true to their contemporary originals, yet Laura still added that extra sparkle to make them her own, and once again demonstrated just why a very bright future lies ahead for this talented young lady from Ancaster, ON.

Following a brief intermission, Hamilton native and Juno award winner Tomi Swick and his ensemble took the stage.  Given that his album “The Yukon Motel” (see GDW review here) was released relatively recently, Tomi focused his set list on newer material.  Given the trials and tribulations bestowed upon Tomi Swick over the last few years, the audience was certainly appreciative not only of his return to music, but of his decision to follow his own intuition over the demands of (former) record labels.  And with his new musical direction, and a clear and passionate love for such a sound, Tomi and his four bandmates would shine all evening.

Without repeating my previous review of the new material, I feel obliged to add that I have a deeper respect for a couple of these tracks for which Tomi shared stories behind the lyrics.  One notable example is “I’ll Get You Out of Here,” which introduced us not only to an acknowledgment of the pain felt during the passing of his mother, but also the memories triggered upon her death of his memory of a tough childhood with a scared mother and abusive stepfather.  The ability to articulate his emotions both in the present tense to a room full of strangers, and then through his exceptional lyrics, further demonstrates the honesty and emotional charge that fuels his music.

Tomi did not ease off the gas pedal all evening, belting out the up-tempo tracks “Wake Me Up,” “Liberty,” and “Red Light” from the new CD, as well as the slower “Bad Things” and the feel-good tracks “Juliet” and “Sunshine Sweet Liquor.”  Tomi also pulled out a couple of older tracks, and gave his lead guitarist the spotlight for a great cover version of a classic rock anthem.

As Tomi Swick closed his set to an appreciative crowd, my own appreciation for his work increased when we learned that he was not yet done for the evening, and was performing at a private function later that same night.  A blue-collar musician with a blue-collar strong work ethic, Tomi not only convinces you that he is a guy that truly loves to play music, but one who has overcome many obstacles in order to continue to live and breathe his music that is both infectious and a joy to share for the artist and listening audience alike.

Team GDW express our gratitude to Tomi Swick for taking time to chat after the show (even though he had to hustle to make his next gig on time) and to put smiles on our faces for his feedback on our previous review of his music.  We also wish to thank both Laura Cole and Chris Chiarcos for their time and conversation, and for taking to time to autograph our CDs and personalize the ‘set list’ that will remain a much appreciated souvenir from their great performance.  We certainly hope to catch both Tomi Swick and Laura Cole again (with her full band in tow) in the near future.  If either of these artists happen to be in a town near you, we strongly recommend that you take the time to experience their wonderful music for yourselves.

~ M

Visit Laura Cole’s website.

Visit Tomi Swick’s website.