The Wooden Sky @ The Phoenix – December 1, 2012

December 7, 2012 No comments
Written by Meryl Howsam

Photo by Meryl Howsam

I’d been eagerly anticipating this show, first of all because I knew The Wooden Sky had been on tour in Europe for over a month and were excited to come home, and also because I’d only seen them play once, outside at the Toronto Islands, so I was curious to see them take over a larger venue.

I arrived early, in time for the second opener, fellow Toronto band, Wildlife. I hadn’t heard their music before, but was impressed – their songs were energetic and fun, and their final song included three of their five band members playing various drums and singing choruses of “ohhhhh’s.” They’d been touring with Wooden Sky, and seemed genuinely excited to announce they were up next.

Wooden Sky came onstage to cheers from their loyal fanbase — the Phoenix wasn’t full, but the crowd was warmer and more welcoming than any crowd I’ve witnessed in a long time. Perhaps lead singer Gavin Gardiner’s onstage persona contributes to the overall feeling: he regularly addresses the audience, and despite his tall stature and all-black attire, seems pretty laid-back. He announced that the band was going to play older songs in addition to songs from their new album, Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun (likely after having to play a lot of new songs on the tour). The band started with older material early — their second song was the stirring folk song “When Lost at Sea,” the title track from their first album. (They definitely do sound good in a larger venue!) They effortlessly transitioned between albums, and between traditional guitar and synth-heavy rock songs, to ballads, to alt-country songs with violin and melodica solos. It was impressive and unexpected (and unlike I remembered) to hear such variety in the live show.

The band’s collaborative skills and musicianship were evident and contributed to their cohesive sound. Bassist Andrew Wyatt sang soft harmonies against Gardiner’s deep vocals, while occasionally playing melodica and bass simultaneously. Simon Walker, the keyboardist/guitarist, also sang backup, tirelessly played guitar and piano, and experimented with synth. The synth was especially poignant during the swingy ballad “Take me Out” (which Gardiner dedicated to his parents — awww). Also in the name of dedications, Gardiner dedicated “North Dakota” to another Toronto band, Ohbijou, who were playing Lee’s Palace that night.

At the beginning of the encore, Gardiner announced that he’d set a goal to write a song every day. It didn’t last, but he sang the first song he’d written, a sparse guitar-and-violin version of the mournful “River Song One.” And the mood changed, yet again, for the final song of the encore, when Gardiner stepped down into the audience, who gathered around him to belt out, “Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot To Me).”

The entire show felt like a love-in. Both the band and crowd were appreciative, the stage banter was intimate, and the enthusiasm was high. Everyone is clearly glad the band is back home.

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