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Cold Specks sends chills through the Great Hall

Posted by Adam Brady / August 9, 2012

Cold SpecksLast night, I sat and listened to Cold Specks, and I got chills.

Okay, maybe not quite; it was too damn hot at The Great Hall last night for that. But when the band began playing "Blank Maps," from their Polaris Prize-nominated debut I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, I could feel the hair rising on my arms and many others in the audience lean forward, unconsciously going to the edges of their seats.

Cold SpecksBeginning with a deceptively simple melody and a fingerpicked guitar, the song quickly gathered momentum as other instruments came in piecemeal, driving it forward. In a long black dress at center stage, lead singer Al Spx led her band through a too-short set of self-described 'doom-soul' for a sold-out crowd of eager fans.

Cold Specks ran through I Predict A Graceful Expulsion in its entirety as well as an a capella version of that modern classic, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song. The band stepped away for Spx's rousing traditional closer "Stepstones" and the band used the encore to showcase a new song. "All Flesh Is Grass," as played last night, features heavier, more prominent drums than I'm used to from the group, but its haunting chorus and compelling lyrics make me anxious to hear it again — as well as any more unreleased material they may have.

Cold Specks liveLast time I saw Cold Specks, it was just lead singer Spx playing solo; having the other members of her group on stage last night completely changed the tenor of the show. The music was tense, beautiful and restless all at once. Parts like the cello limping through the chorus of "Heavy Hands," or the subtle percussion pushing "Hector" forward, kept the set engaging and it seemed almost surprising when the band left the stage a little more than an hour after they'd first stepped up to it.

Cold Specks Self-described "Toronto-by-choice" ghostly folk duo Snowblink opened up with "Green To Gone," from their 2011 debut album Long Live. Lead singer Daniela Gesundheit has a very unique, lyrical and expressive voice, and the band made great use of loopers, delays and reverb to fill out their songs. Their two-part vocals — harmony or counterpoint often sung by guitarist Dan Goldman — were used to add some very dramatic dynamic shifts to their set. The climax of their set was a new song, "Inner Mini Mississippi," from their upcoming record, Inner Classics, but the audience also responded strongly to a cover of "State Trooper" by Bruce Springsteen.

Snowblink will be playing a special two-show album release at The Music Gallery on September 22nd, but their new album will be available as of the 11th.

Cold SpecksI Predict A Graceful Expulsion is considered by many to be an underdog in the Polaris Prize competition. Though it is nominated alongside such Canadian cultural and commercial darlings as Feist and Drake, Cold Specks' debut is arresting and forceful, demanding and rewarding in the same fashion as Al Spx and company were at The Great Hall last night.

Cold Specks"I want it to roar," said Spx, right before the band left the stage for the first time. The standing ovation the crowd answered her with should be proof enough that Cold Specks have people's attention. 20120808-coldSpecks-19.jpg

(written by Adam Brady; you can follow him on Twitter @soundslikework. All photos by Bruce Emberley)



Katherine / August 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm
Cold Specks was great. However, the heat in the Great Hall was unbearable and made it hard for the audience to really enjoy the show. There were some elderly people beside us who complained and were told it was an old building. They said they plan on reporting this to the gov't. The venue management has a legal responsibility to provide fresh air and a reasonable air temperature for a paying seated audience. Getting outside to some fresh air was the highlight of the night for me. I will NEVER see a show at the Great Hall again (washrooms were also disgusting).
Wendy / August 9, 2012 at 01:19 pm
The Great Hall used to be Air Conditioned - I worked many events back in the early 2000s there. (The bathrooms were also always spotless.) Sounds like the current owners/management aren't keeping on top of things. Such a shame. Such a beautiful building.
Mary / August 9, 2012 at 03:07 pm
you went to that concert last night and all you can talk about was the heat? mary mother of god people... when you talk about this concert 10 years from now you will be saying... "yeah i saw her in 2012 at the Great Hall! i know! and only $15!! nobody'd really heard of her! it was spine-tingling."
you saw a legend in the making last night peeps. rejoice.
Bullit / August 9, 2012 at 03:15 pm
@Mary @Katherine

Mary - In Katherine’s defense even Spx said something like “We decided to wear our Sunday best for this show and I think we are all regretting it, it’s so fucking hot in here”. She made a few other references to the heat throughout the show. Therefore the heat is a very valid talking point.

Amazing show all around! Loved the small venue atmosphere and being seated made is seem much more intimate (additional benefit for my 5'2" girlfriend was that she could see the stage!!!...don't think that has happened in a while). I can’t wait to go see them again.
Ren / August 9, 2012 at 10:41 pm
@Bullit, totally valid! Great show, but not so Great Hall anymore. The fact that Spx point out the extreme heat probably means they will never play there again either. Who wants a great performance to be tainted by cheap management that got a few hundred people together in a small (but beautiful) venue and decided to save money by cutting back on air conditioning! Very short-sighted.
lizzy / August 10, 2012 at 09:07 pm
I didn't go to this show... but from reading this article I checked out this band and it is amazing!
Too bad I just discovered now and missed the show.
hopefully next time.
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Ashley F / August 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Her voice is incredibe and was the highlight and obvious draw of the show. The band plays like musicians getting used to each other, not a tight group yet and could use a bit more practice. However, very cool to see her at the start of what will hopefully be a long career. I see about 100 shows a year, the Great Hall wasn't nearly as hot as a lot of shows, but the sound was a touch too loud. I have to say, the opening act was a JOKE! Her voice was nice but they are hardly talented musicians... worst opening act I've seen in a long, long time! Anyway, Cold Specks was GREAT and her voice hits something metaphorically that most singers just can't.
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