Live music can be hit and miss. Sometimes singers fail to reach that impressive high note that you wait two thirds of the song to hear, and sometimes the sound quality doesn’t quite allow that synth line or guitar riff to be replicated in its full glory as heard on the record. But when live music does hit its target, it’s a magical thing. Everything you thought was good about a song is magnified; the drums boom, the guitar tones slice the air and the bass hums through your skull. That’s the kind of thing that happened at the City And Colour show at the Palais Theatre.
Listening to Dallas Green’s sweet falsetto in opening song ‘We Found Each Other In The Dark,’ it’s hard to imagine that he was ever in a hardcore band (Green is formerly of Alexisonfire). His backing band consists of not only your standard drummer, bassist and guitarist, but also pedal steel and organ player. Throughout the set, they leave and return to the stage as needed; the balance between full band songs and Green performing solo (as he was when he started City And Colour) allows us to experience the best of both worlds. Some songs are adapted to suit the band, with the originally stripped-back ‘Sleeping Sickness’ transformed into something epic to witness; and ‘As Much As I Ever Could’ is breathtaking with the addition of sudden stops, angsty blues guitar and huge power chords. Green dedicates the first song he plays alone for the night, ‘Day Old Hate,’ to the fans who have been with him since City And Colour’s inception, and the rendition leaves the hushed crowd with chills.
The stage lights, while occasionally blindingly bright, synchronise wonderfully with the music; shrouding the other members in the dark, leaving only Green under a single spotlight, then shining a light on the bassist as he comes in with a harmony, and blinking with increasing speed in the background as the volume swells from piano to forte.
Although well-behaved and quiet during the songs, the crowd’s heckling in-between is truly cringe-worthy. Green handles it well, responding to “bring back Alexis!” with a simple, “fair enough.” Responding to a male shouting “have my babies!” with “that’s physically impossible, unless we’re talking about ‘Junior’ starring Arnold Schwarzenegger – which was an awful movie.” Another foolish girl shouts, “play ‘The Girl’,”arguably one of City And Colour’s most well-liked song, to which Green replies calmly, “I’m obviously gonna play ‘The Girl’ at some point, so keep that in mind. I’ve got a wonderful evening planned for everyone… I’m not gonna pull a Radiohead on you.” Was there ever a more perfect response?
After asking everyone to please put their ‘cellphones’ in their pockets just for ‘Body In A Box’, Green says the sentence that wins Quote Of The Night: he clarifies that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take photos at a gig, but we should ensure “we’re not trying to remember it so badly that we’re forgetting to experience it while it’s happening.” This is rightly met with enthusiastic applause. Green definitely gets an A+ for his inspiring and humourous banter.
The crowd reluctantly participates in ‘What Makes A Man’ by singing one of the two chorus vocal parts (as he cannot sing two at once, Green points out), which he teaches us prior to performing the song. Despite his encouragement, we’re a little shy and on the quiet side, but when our collective voice rises like some great sigh, figurative sparks fly. We were duetting with Green as one, and it was awesome.
After thanking us humbly and sincerely for coming to watch him, he and his band play ‘Comin’ Home’ and ‘Hope For Now’ for the encore: the former representative of the stirring, softer part of the set, and the latter the harder, heavier moments. Repeatedly wailing “Oh, when I sing” to finish, Green (with help from his band) leave us awed by the calibre of his two-hour-long performance.