By Nicole Clark
The Once began the Ontario leg of their cross-Canada tour on Nov. 3 at the Centre in the Square in Kitchener. The tour will have 16 shows across Ontario, Alberta and Newfoundland. The band consists of Geraldine Hollett, Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale of Saint John’s Newfoundland.
The concert was part of the Centre in the Square’s Onstage series, where the shows are cabaret style, with the audience joining the performers on the main stage; the band’s back is to the theatre of empty seats.
The Once has been playing together for 10 years and have just released their fifth album this past September, an EP called You Win Some You Lose. Though some may assume it is their fourth, you cannot forget their Christmas album (which features lots of original songs); they won’t let you.
“You’re not a band until you have to do Christmas music in July,” said Hollett.
The ease they have with one another, an ease that can only come from a long-running relationship such as theirs, is clearly evident as the trio take the stage to the delight of the intimate crowd who have been eagerly awaiting their arrival.
How do they maintain their closeness? In addition to working together 365 days of the year for the last 10, they hug.
“We do a little three-way hug,” said Churchill, adding, “If we didn’t it would be weird.”
It’s a ritual they insist upon doing before each show, sort of when children fight and the parent insists upon a hug to mend the tension once the argument ends.
Despite the recent release of their EP, the songs they played were not from that album alone. They made sure to include fan favourites such as Fool For You from their 2015 album, Departures, and Charlie’s from their 2011 album titled Row Upon Row Of The People They Know. These were met with cheers at the first few chords.
The fans hung on to every lyric and note the band performed; some even swayed along with Geraldine as she sang, Charlie’s. All eyes were on them. No one looked bored or antsy.
The stage lights filtered through the smoke almost as if it was their aura; dancing and cheery with a serious, ominous feel. Together, the three of them performed on the small stage, the faux fog streaming up from behind them, joining each other in moments of wonderful three-part harmony.
The Once took the time to introduce the majority of the songs, not with a simple name but with personal anecdotes and banter between the crowd and one another, adding to the intimate feel of the event.
“If you think we talk too much, you’re wrong, we’re from Newfoundland,” Phil said during one of his anecdotal introductions.
One song in particular warranted the heartfelt introduction it received. A friend of theirs, an eight-year-old named Claudia, was the inspiration for the song, Warm Like Me. They describe her as little and often tired due to the amount of seizures she endures daily. She is non-verbal except for her greeting of “hi” and “hello.” She welcomes them with either of these words each time they meet.
They described how she, and children like her, are in need of a playground. The organization Easter Seals is in the middle of funding a playground for her area, which will cost $60,000 to build.
The Once told the audience of the song and Claudia and the initiative they are doing to help. If you buy the song, Warm Like Me, on iTunes for 99 cents, every cent goes to the Easter Seals and helping to create that playground for their friend.
The whole night was a relaxing escape from reality and the audience, without hesitation, welcomed the band back to the stage for a final song with a standing ovation.