After an unexpectedly long shift at work, and a cramped Max ride followed by a chilly walk through the neighborhoods of North Portland, not much about my day seemed redeemable. Happy to finally arrive at the Wonder Ballroom, but sadly missing most of opener The Low Anthem’s set (which sounded like it was very enjoyable, from the crowd’s response at the end), the night quickly proved to make up for the average Monday’s lackluster.
The evolution that City and Colour has undertaken since Sometimes’ release in 2005 and Bring Me Your Love’s release in 2008 seems to be a subtle but purposeful one. The benchmark that really sets last year’s Little Hell apart from previous efforts is the perfected balance between striking, yet ductile acoustic goodness and soulful twanginess (which my computer informs me is not actually a word… dang)!
Dallas Green knows what he’s doing, and, quite frankly, anyone who has ever attempted to write him off as a typical, crooning singer/songwriter is absurdly mistaken. Given even a small amount of time to indulge in any of his three full-lengths would prove that Green is a force to be reckoned with. And he has a growing following to prove it.
Taking after Little Hell’s soft country elements, many songs in City and Colour’s back-catalogue underwent a change in instrumentation to not only aide in making the set a more cohesive collection, but to incorporate the accompanying full band. There have been many times before where I’ve watched in horror as once-solo acoustic acts attempt clumsy transitions into having filled out backing bands, but with Green at the helm of the operation, the songs took on new life without destroying what endeared people to them in the first place.
The Wonder Ballroom was packed by eight when the house lights dimmed, and I have a strong doubt that anyone in the room didn’t enjoy themselves. Opening with “We Found Each Other In The Dark,” the full arsenal of musical talent on stage was clearly showcased, from the gorgeous vocal harmonies to the verbose added guitar parts on songs that previously were more stripped down. “Sleeping Sickness,” and “The Grand Optimist,” a real highlight of the set for me, followed in perfect suit, with the widely varied crowd fully engaged. Midway through the night, the backing band stepped offstage, allowing the frontman time to play a few solo renditions of older work.
Green is clearly no stranger to the stage, once splitting his time between developing City and Colour as more than just a side project and non-stop touring as a part the now-defunct post-hardcore outfit Alexisonfire. Both his flawless performance throughout the set, as well as the soft banter that went on in between songs made his comfort there in the spotlight pleasantly apparent.
“Stop trying to remember it so badly that you’re forgetting to experience it,” he commented, asking that people shut off their phones and cameras for a moment to help with some of the background vocals of “What Makes A Man?” “And if you see someone with their phone out,” he continued, laughing, “kindly turn to them and tell them ‘FUCK OFF!”
With every diligent call and return from the crowd, he appeared giddy to hear the words sung back at him. Other clear favorites like “The Girl” and “Waiting” had everyone in the crowd—from the young scenesters to the drunk moms in the bar! —shouting and cheering loudly during and in between the songs. Let’s get real: you know when the moms in the crowd are getting excited it’s a good night, right?
Even the lighting (which I generally don’t notice much at shows, unless there are too-bright strobe lights or something equally as harsh) was incredibly on point, creating a perfect atmosphere all the way around. (Dear lighting specialist: I applaud you. You’re doing it right.) On second thought, it could just be the amorous mental haze I was in from hearing Dallas Green’s perfect pipes serenading me for over an hour, but that’s a judgment call you’ll have to make all on your own.
Words by Jenna Fletcher