Words & Images by : Nell Alk
City And Colour :: 01.12.09 :: Bowery Ballroom :: New York, NY
Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green of City And Colour spent two nights in NYC, playing consecutive sold out shows at Bowery Ballroom. He was previously in Manhattan last October, opening for fellow Canadian twin sister sensation Tegan & Sara at Terminal 5. He's performed in New York before, at The Knitting Factory last March, but that was a one-off. Hitting the road with T&S was his "first American tour ever,"* which comes as a surprise considering that not only does this folk singer have a strong following, but so too does his other band, Canadian hardcore group Alexisonfire.
His Lower East Side debut drew an enthusiastic crowd. A coveted talent, Green is in high demand, a soulful-not-saccharine lyricist and a melodic god. Sharing the stage with Dan Romano on second guitar, Scott Remila on bass and Dylan Green on drums (no relation), Dallas Green stood to the side. An unconventional location for the main attraction, one might consider this indicative of his character - humble and far from fussy. Also suggestive of their collective laid-back nature, the band dressed casually; plaid shirts and blue jeans, a straight up just-came-from-a-jarty ensemble, with Dylan sporting a tee that proudly announced, "Waukesha, Wisconsin." Right on. Green boasted some stubble, "geek" glasses and his signature flannel long sleeve draped over a t-shirt. His skinny blue jeans were rolled up at the ankles to reveal brown boots beneath. He wore something else as well, a recently acquired accessory: A wedding ring! Turns out he and longtime girlfriend Leah Miller tied the knot on New Year's Eve, though I have no doubt admirers would prefer it had been April Fool's!
City And Colour opened with the short, soft "Forgive Me," the first track off of his most recent release, Bring Me Your Love (released February 12, 2008 on Vagrant Records). This selection eased the audience into show mode, foregoing the alternative approach: diving headfirst into his more passion-packed standout songs. This he reserved for their next number, "Death of Me." Characterized by its rapid acoustic strumming, scaled singing, sing-along lyrics and foot tapping percussion, this catapulted fans from docile observers to lively participants. Hips swayed, cameras snapped and beer relocated from plastic cups to clean hair and overpriced designer shirts. Ahem.
Next up was "Sam Malone" off Sometimes (2005), Green's first release. In the same vein as the opener, this song moves slowly. In my mind it's too sluggish for a live venue, but, if nothing else, this decision made the following musical move that much more exciting. "Waiting" starts out slow but picks up the pace and aggression, especially when encountered firsthand. Green's dulcet delivery rarely wavered from its signature velvety tone, but the instrumentation had heads bobbing and familiar listeners singing along. After this they went with "Sometimes (I Wish)." Also slower, it proved pretty and passed in-person inspection with flying colors. An oldie but goodie, Green then sang "Day Old Hate." His collaborators departed the stage and left him to woo the room with his perfect plucking. With his plaintive vocals and delicate guitar, this sad solo settled over the room like a beautiful blanket. A somewhat abstract song, seemingly about defeat and regret, the melancholy words carry with them a twinge of bitterness. This is fitting, as he once communicated in an interview that making music is his method "to relieve tension... I just write songs. That's how I deal with problems or anything I'm thinking about."*
|Dallas Green :: 01.12.09 :: New York|
Green seemed tension-free this night, even when experiencing technical difficulties. "We're gonna adapt and overcome," he announced with a laugh as they fussed with the drums. Surmounting the mishap, Green encouraged everyone to come together and sing as a team. "We've come to the participation portion of the show. Now wail it!" With that, they jumped into "Sleeping Sickness," a standout track played with rigorous speed. We went wild, and who can blame us? The studio version includes clapping and you better believe the live version invites an exaggerated echo, not to mention the can't-help-but-belt-it chorus: "Someone come and/ Someone come and save my life/ Maybe I'll sleep when I am dead/ but now it's like the night is taking sides/ With all the worries that occupy the back of my mind/ could it be, this misery will suffice?" If you haven't yet, you've gotta hear this track.
Other selections for the evening included "Constant Knot" (another sing-along song with ample clapping and plenty of "ba ba ba" for the sea of devotees to chant), "The Girl" (a terrifically played, sweet track that's both slow and fast as hell), "What Makes a Man?" (a introspective beauty that had everyone wondering out loud) and "As Much As I Ever Could" (considered by some to be his foremost "love" song). They also covered Alexisonfire's "Boiled Frogs," a bizarre and mildly disturbing title but a genuinely great track. Their rendition was off tap and no doubt introduced less-than-informed fans to Green's "primary" project. This performance prompted ample applause and several shouts. Green even singled out one reveler, "He just wooed his own yell. Who woos their own yell? That's topnotch." It's true, Green isn't just a miracle worker wordsmith-musician he's also hilarious.
While on the topic of topnotch, the encore was stellar. Green sauntered back alone to the stage, harmonica in hand. The accolades were deafening. Simultaneously maneuvering two instruments, he sang "Body in a Box," which he killed (no pun intended). And, as always, he couldn't keep from making his classic "stink face" – a sneer, scrunched nose, squinted eyes, furled forehead and all - something he's become comfortable with: "I've learned to just live with it. I'm a face singer," he says. "The way I sing, the way I can hit my notes is by making these faces. I make stupid faces."*
|City And Colour :: 01.12.09 :: New York|
City And Colour ended the evening with "Comin' Home," bringing the house down with this fan favorite. We watched in awe as the four men nailed this rhyming, repetitive gem. The electric guitar really resonated, both literally and figuratively, hitting the high ceiling and tugging ever so gently at the heartstrings. It proved the ideal finale to an amazing, long awaited and much anticipated concert. While there were some songs I wish they had played ("Casey's Song" or Green's heartbreaking cover of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore") and some I felt they could have done without, overall their performance was top-quality. In spite of a mechanical glitch, which Green handled with utmost grace, the show went on. I can't speak for their second night in New York, but something tells me it was equally enthralling. Green has proclaimed he "never really wanted to put something out,"* but his fans are eternally grateful that he did. He's come a long way since his initial hesitation and we can't wait to hear what happens next.
* = An interview I conducted with Dallas Green at Terminal 5 on October 6, 2008 (interview here).
City And Colour :: 01.12.09 :: Bowery Ballroom :: New York, NY
Forgive Me, Death of Me, Sam Malone, Waiting, Sometimes (I Wish), Day Old Hate, Sleeping Sickness, Constant Knot, The Girl, What Makes a Man?, Boiled Frogs,. As Much as I Ever Could, Body in a Box, Comin' Home
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