Dallas Green might use City and Colour to showcase his knack for constructing a gentle, affecting ballad, but his live show draws a large and lively audience. The Monday night performance at Thebarton Theatre was packed with exuberant, appreciative fans ready to end the Easter weekend on a high.
Green is a curiously introverted front-man who lets his music do the talking; we were a number of songs into the set before anything was said to the audience, and this was just a simple note of thanks. This humble style, however, makes for a refreshing change from the typical rock’n’roll swagger.
Later in the gig, Green talked a number of times about his love of Adelaide and the atmosphere of the Thebby. For many international acts, such flattery might feel forced, but when Green spoke about his first visit here playing the Enigma Bar (which was also his first experience of Australia), it all felt quite genuine, as did his appreciation of the dedicated fans who come out to see him play. Near the end of the show he vowed to keep coming back as long as there are people who will turn out to hear his music.
Any international act spurning Adelaide because of that perception that we don’t turn up should take note: we turn up when quality music is on offer.
While the audience was big on enthusiasm from the start, the show did take a little while to warm up. Entering to some fairly incongruous walk-on music, the band launched into ‘Woman’ the nine-minute opener from the recent If I Should Go Before You record, a slow burner, that set the ponderous tone of the evening. From there we were treated to a mix of old and new tracks from an impressive song-writing talent, with a professional, 100-minute set.
Then five numbers in, the energy lifted with ‘Killing Time’; interestingly, at this point Green put the guitar down, taking on the true front-man role, while the band loosened up, building on the sexy, soulful groove of the song. It was the bigger moments in the show such as these that really stood out: ‘Wasted Love’ with some nice riffs, the larger sounds of ‘Sleeping Sickness’ and ‘Mazzy C’, and the searching, slow blues of ‘As Much As I Ever Could’, which built up to some great guitar work (and to something much more expansive than the recorded work).
Equally, there was great appeal in the intimacy of the encore when Green sang a few songs with just a guitar and no backing, beginning with a sing-a-long version of ‘Body In a Box’.
With a nicely balanced sound mix, Green’s smooth and soulful vocals came through to fantastic effect. The soundscape was carefully built in collaboration with the gifted group of musicians behind him, a tight ensemble, with Dante Schwebel (guitar) and Matt Kelly (keyboards / slide guitar) starring. They are clearly much more than a touring outfit, with a patent musical connection demonstrated in the manner they play together. Their contribution was most notable on the earlier City and Colour material, which was originally recorded by Green primarily in solo mode, but now enhanced by the grander instrumentation.
While Green is a skilful crafter of songs, he never drifts very far from the tender ballad / alt-country focus of City and Colour. Perhaps this is to distinguish the work from his post-hardcore Alexisonfire material, and this occasionally feels a little constraining. That said, the songs are beautifully (and meticulously) put together, making for a very enjoyable show.
As a side note, Thebby is a wonderful venue for live music, but on Monday night things didn’t seem to be running altogether smoothly. Maybe it was the effect of the long weekend or being caught off guard by the large crowd, but the bar was low on supplies and the manner of some of the staff was lacking in some general courtesy. Let’s hope this was just an aberration from one of our best live music venues.
Otherwise, the City and Colour gig proved to be a terrific celebration of live music. We should hold Green to his promise to return here again and again.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor