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The Great Lake Swimmers
Live review...
The Great Lake Swimmers
Once Sleeping States were announced as the support for this gig, I had to go. I've been listening to the new album, In The Gardens of the North, and there's definitely something special about it. However, tonight my tardy arrival is timed to see frontman, Markland Starkie, leave the stage.

Still, headliners The Great Lake Swimmers will surely make up for the disappointment. The Canadian indie folkers released their forth album, Lost Channels, earlier this year and it's songs from this release that make up a large chunk of tonight's set - the likes of Everything Is Moving So Fast, Still and Palmistry.

Singer/songwriter and lead man, Tony Dekker, has a voice with a ghostly ethereal quality and an ability to make emotional wrecks out of mundane observations. There are moments of Red House Painters, Iron & Wine and glimpses of Sufjan Stevens throughout the set. Though there's something lacking.

These songs on record have an atmospheric quality that sooths and comforts. And live the band perfectly capture the sparse universe with banjos, slide guitar and upright bass. But what becomes apparent here tonight is the very "safe" territory the band occupies.

Songs float about with one idea, but rarely develop any further - it's meant to be sparse but soon they drift into an atmospheric blanket of drone. Meanwhile the lyrics can seem forced and the beautiful female vocal that embellishes Dekkers vocal on record is missing. Yet, with Dekker looking fragile on stage, it's hard not to listen intently.

His stage presence is somewhat awkward and refrained. Introducing songs about manic depression, songs for bands that no longer exists, and stories of venues that have closed down - this was never a band to a have a rip roaring Saturday night to. Instead it's one to sit back and share a slight feeling of melancholy and a glimmer of hope.

And many people have. The Speakeasy Bar is filled well, with people who are here to see this band - who know this band - who sing along solemnly with this band. Highlights included the REM-esque She Comes To Me In Dreams, recent single Pulling On A Line and the crowd favourite I Am Part Of A Large Family. It's never going to be something to get too excited about, but the Great Lake Swimmers do, what they do, very well.

Amy McGarrigle

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Gig Details
Venue: The Speakeasy
Location: Belfast
Date: 14/11/2009

Related Links
+ The Great Lake Swimmers
+ Sleeping States (myspace)