Saturday, November 13, 2010
Show Review: The Wooden Sky - Live at Lee's Palace, Saturday November 6, 2010
Having just finished up a two month long national tour with These United States and Yukon Blonde, you could tell the band was happy to be back home among familiar faces and family. Playing to a surprisingly sold-out Lee’s Palace, The Wooden Sky was ready to deliver their unique left-of-center folk rock to the packed venue. The vibe for the night was particularly energetic, with the crowd really embracing the sounds of both opening acts. So when The Wooden Sky finally took the stage the crowd seemed ready to erupt. The band’s set drew heavily on newer material from 2009s If I Don’t Come Home, You’ll Know I’m Gone but there were more than a few surprises in store for the night.
On record The Wooden Sky are really quite mellow. They do have the tendency to produce huge building crescendos of sound thanks to thickly layered guitars, violin, and the impressive vocals of lead singer Gavin Gardiner. Those grandeur moments were in full force at Saturday night’s show. The haunting “My Old Ghosts” built slowly off of Gavin’s delicately picked guitar lines, while the pounding bass and snare drums helped to create mounting tension. Those in the audience relished the opportunity to scream along with Gavin during the last powerful minute of the song. Riding off the crowd’s energy, The Wooden Sky took the opportunity to play The Animals-influenced “Angels”, a brooding song with strong biblical references to animal sacrifices, Jesus and the star of David.
Showing their trust for the hometown audience, The Wooden Sky treated us as musical guinea pigs and tested out two new songs. These new tunes followed similar themes to those heard on If I Don’t Come Home, You’ll Know I’m Gone, and while beautifully played, they weren’t overly memorable. Likely recognizing this little hiccup, Gavin dedicated the next song to the guys in These United States and hit us with a spot-on and rather jammed out cover of Tom Petty’s anthemic “American Girl”. Soon after the band invited both Yukon Blonde and These United States on to the stage to add some extra bass drum action to the tense “Something Hiding For Us In The Night” set closer. Bass drums were being played with traditional drumsticks to beer bottles and everything in between. The set seemed curiously short, but just as they finished Gavin announced that the group would be playing behind Lee’s Palace in a couple of minutes!
A group of around fifty to sixty people rounded the corner and headed to the back of Lee’s Palace and proceeded to wait eagerly to see what The Wooden Sky had in store. A large circle was left open for the band, who warmly invited everyone to huddle in much closer when the time to play finally came. Gavin led the crowd through an acoustic version “Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot To Me)” before taking the request of “Oslo”. He asked that we all be whisper quiet for this number, but that only lasted about thirty seconds, as everyone seemed to know the words and quickly added their voices to the song. Gavin seemed a bit at a loss as to what to play next, so he posed a question instead. “Who wants to get fucking arrested?” Well, needless to say everyone cheered along to that, and The Wooden Sky began to play the often overlooked Bob Dylan tune “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, all the while marching the large group into the middle of Bloor Street West. Amid honking cars, taxis, and bemused on-lookers, our group belted out the beautiful words of Bob Dylan in a truly surreal moment that bonded band, song, and community. I know it’s a cliché, but The Wooden Sky’s Saturday night performance was an exceptionally magical evening of music, and one that will be very hard to top.
Photos by Michelle Cortese