Friday night at Rogers Arena was a tribute to Canadiana as City and Colour performed a lengthy and heart-felt set to a packed house. With support from Shakey Graves, it was an evening of blues with a healthy dose of country and folk peppered in.
Shakey Graves (Alejandro Rose-Garcia), a folk/rock musician from Austin, Texas, opened the concert with a few songs from his most recent release And the War Came. With heavy guitar licks and vocals strong enough to headline a venue like Rogers Arena, Shakey Graves made a solid impression on the otherwise tepid early-evening crowd. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Garcia perform on his own and (now) with a full band: while they both have their positive aspects, it was great to have the complete sound supporting the front man. Garcia addressed this point during a monologue leading into “Only Son”, a song based upon the growth of the band from one to four. The only disappointing element of the performance was how short it was! Spending just forty minutes on stage, the crowd was left wanting more but only given an apologetic wave and an empty stage for more than half an hour as the crew worked to rearrange for the main act.
City and Colour is the stage name for Canadian musician Dallas Green. Having achieved tremendous success in the 2000’s as singer and guitarist for post-hardcore band Alexisonfire, Green has spent the last decade transforming from alt-hero to heartthrob to a blend of country, blues, and folk musician that everyone from teenagers to geriatrics can get behind. With his newest album If I Should Go Before You and evident in his performance on Friday, blues is where his creative soul currently resides.
Opening with “Woman”, Green’s vocals were on point, unwavering, and stronger than they have ever been. Growing up in Toronto provided me the opportunity to see Dallas Green perform with Alexisonfire quite regularly; it is incredible to see how mature and refined his abilities have become over the years. Song after song, not once was there a misstep or flat note to be heard. With a band of incredibly talented musicians to back him up, notably bassist “Little” Jack Lawrence (The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs), City and Colour performed with exceptional clarity and accuracy for the entire two-hour set.
Where it did struggle is perhaps a point of contention: as City and Colour reached into their back-catalogue of material, there seemed to be a bit of revisionist genre-bending going on. As Green noted during “Hello, I’m In Delaware”, he and the band put a bluesy “twist” on one of his most famous songs. Now, I can understand the monotony of playing the same song for over ten years but to affect the tune in such a way seemed detrimental. Dallas Green is playing the blues now and has always had it written into the subtext of the music, but to amplify and over exaggerate those undertones seems an injustice to the original appeal of his early work – slide guitar has it’s place but it ain’t on this track.
Revisions aside, there was no doubt about City and Colour’s ability to perform and what makes them such a great homegrown band. With prideful roots dug deep into this soil, Green has supported and contributed to Canadian music for well over a decade and has worked with some of the most notable artist in this country.
One such artist is The Tragically Hip’s front man, Gord Downie. In the highlight of the evening, Green covered “Bobcaygeon” during his encore: an emotional and incredibly soulful rendition that brought the audience to its feet. Green prefaced the song with a simple yet effective acknowledgement of Downie’s current health problems by wishing him well and then committing everything he had to the performance.
It is still a funny phenomenon to see aging punks sitting beside the parents that once told them to “turn that garbage down” (in regards to Alexisonfire) both enjoying the multifaceted and continually developing artistry of Dallas Green. This, in and of itself, seems to be proof of why City and Colour will to go down in Canadian music legend.