TRAIL — If Dallas Green of City and Colour were any more unassuming, he’d perform from backstage.
He played to a packed, sweaty house of 701 patrons at the Charles Bailey Theatre in Trail Tuesday night. He strolled on stage with no fanfare, sat down on a stool, and said “hey.” And so it went.
For two hours, Green set forth to lock into your soul with an ethereal voice and delectable strumming, and words and thoughts that stopped you cold.
After playing a stirring version of Hello, I’m In Delaware, Green wryly introduced Map of the World: “Here’s a newer song about the same thing — I still haven’t figured it out, but I’m trying.”
He was joined mid-set by multi-instrumentalist Matt Kelly, who was the perfect foil providing needed texture and contrast. His pedal steel work on We Found Each Other in the Dark was especially haunting, as it created a deep soundscape to lift Green’s pure vocal even higher.
Kelly also brought a crisp harmony vocal to several songs, matching Green’s tone perfectly while massaging your ears with the stereo effect of the second voice. If I Should Go Before You was haunting and stunning. My eyebrows lifted when the harmony launched… wow.
This is a good time to mention the sound mix… top level. Green’s vocal was front and centre, as it should be, but the way the guitar tones changed and weaved based on his strum position on the guitar and the subtle tweaking of the levels on the sound board were magical. Green’s deft use of a pick to harden the sound, and then his thumb to soften the strike, brought so much scale and dynamism. He’d add subtle harmonics or a hard-struck bass note run to bring more edge.
Green tuned his various acoustic guitars by ear between songs, dropping dry banter here and there like Easter eggs.
A standout moment came when Green and Kelly did a cover of Twilight by Elliot Smith. “F*** do I wish I’d written it, it’s my favourite song ever.” The duo struck the perfect, delicious harmony, and the call and answer sections were compelling. Green’s guitars would redirect the spotlights into the audience, creating random beams of light connecting to the crowd.
The formal light show was a terrific balance of subtle, warm hues, and sharp spots and colour bursts. The back-light spots brought visual depth, and the candlelight accents on the floor and around the amps and gear enhanced the sparse staging.
Green’s voice is so pure and clean, that it cuts right through you. Still, it feels like a warm hug from your mum. This was most evident on Lover Come Back.
“I don’t know how to do anything else. The ‘thank yous’ I give after each song, they have depth. It’s one of the reasons I’m doing this tour to places I’ve never played before. I kind of still expect no one to show up.”
The driving power of Save Your Scissors — with alt-strumming to reinforce the percussive elements — was intense. Follow that in the encore with the raw emotion of Coming Home, and you feel the dynamic range of the catalogue first-hand. I was brought to tears.
“I’ve seen a palace in London, I’ve seen a castle in Wales,
But I’d rather wake up beside you and breathe that ol’ familiar smell,
I never thought you could leave me, I figured I was the one,
But I understand your sadness so I guess I should just hold my tongue.”
They wrapped with Sleeping Sickness, and Green’s voice was spot-on and rich, even after two hours. Credit the rock and roll tea, with honey.
It takes a true artist to narrow the focus to just the songs and still punch you in the heart.