City and Colour Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg MB, November 16
Published Nov 17, 2019It was only seven months ago when Dallas Green performed solo opening for Alice in Chains at the Burton Cummings Theatre, stripping down his introspective songs to their core. You couldn't have had a more different setting this time, with City and Colour performing cuts from across his award-winning discography. Leading off with "Astronaut," from new album A Pill for Loneliness, both Green and guitarist Dante Schwebel seemed immediately comfortable trading off arena-ready solos right out of the gate, with Schwebel utilizing a slick finger slide style that was buttery smooth, while Green's bold, distorted whammy-bar-heavy licks added a counterbalance at different points of the night.
What appeared to be a fairly basic stage and lighting setup revealed itself to be more as the show progressed. The lighting design would shift, in one song, from a psychedelic kaleidoscope of colours and flashing strobes to a warm, almost theatre style on another, as five round lighting rigs enveloped the stage, allowing for an impressive range of moods, which is absolutely necessary for the mid-tempo setlist in a huge hockey arena.
Another element that really anchored the band's sound was anytime the seated peddle steel was used by Matt Sullivan or opener Ben Rogers, who joined the group for a couple of songs over the evening. It added texture and a trippy Canadiana-vibe to songs like "Runaway," "Northern Blues," or "Fragile Bird."
Green only addressed the crowd a few times, explaining that most people there know the "songs are all about the same things." The former hardcore singer was obviously alluding to the melancholic, reflective tone of many of his songs over the past 15 years. "We're all fucked up, we're all just trying to figure it out" Green shyly suggested before heading into a batch of songs, including "Waiting…," that utilized a lowering lighting rig to create an intimate soft-seat vibe in an arena, something that is not easy to pull off.
This really allowed Green and his singing and songwriting to come to the forefront. While he may not have pleased the diehard fans who were calling out for certain songs, Green and his impressive backing band delivered on a wide spectrum, balancing some of his more introspective acoustic songs with his growing catalogue of hazy rock songs that don't feel out of place on such a big stage.