City and Colour
October 21, 2019 at Royale
While on tour after the release of a new album, City and Colour stopped in Boston to perform at the Royale. City and Colour, the stage name for Canadian artist Dallas Green, had not released an album in four years before the release of A Pill for Loneliness on October 4, 2019. The October 21 concert at the Royale featured Ruby Waters as the opening act.
Ruby Waters started her set off with gentle electric guitar paired with her low, raspy vocals, reminiscent of Amy Whinehouse. As she and her accompanying guitarist progressed through her set, the songs became more complex and more personal. The antepenultimate song they performed was a track that has yet to be released,“Honey.” This song immediately established a different mood with its intro which was more heavy on bass and what sounded like atmospheric synths. When her rhythmic vocals and a surprising touch of jazz saxophone came into the mix, the song’s sweet sound truly lived up to its name. Her concluding song was “Sweet Sublime,” another song well deserving of its title. This song features a beautiful sense of release at the chorus, during which Waters soulfully sings “Baby it’s been a long, long time that I’ve been stuck up in the sweet sublime / Four years ago I lost my mind– I think it’s gone for good this time.” With this cathartic finale, Ruby Waters concluded her performance having proved that she is an artist worth paying attention to.
While maintaining the warmth of Waters’ performance, City and Colour featured Green’s more steady style of vocals. Despite being slightly muddied by the extra noise involved with playing at a concert venue, it was still clear that Green’s voice was unwavering and clear as ever. The first song performed was the lead single“Astronaut,” in which Green sang about being a wanderer “feelin’ lucky to be lost.” His vocals soared high during the outer-space-focused lyrics, but dropped back down in intervals as he sang, “There’s poison, there’s silver / That’s home.” This was followed by a powerful guitar solo. Being from the point of view of an astronaut studying the Earth from afar, the song was aptly chosen as the start of the show, and it is a hint at the reflective attitude of the new City and Colour album as a whole.
The performance continued along this path with the next song being a reflection on the state of the world. In “Strangers,” the lyrics asked the audience, “Can we get back to loving each other?” Here, Green and his supporting band made excellent use of silence by carefully placing a pause just before diving into the strong, thought-provoking chorus. Moments like these were, of course, amplified by the fact that the music was live and therefore came in stark contrast to any pauses in the songs.
At this point the performance merged into a segment of songs that featured an eerie atmosphere generated primarily by distortion sounds. However, just as quickly, the audience found themselves listening to the more bluesy “If I Should Go Before You,” from the older album of the same name. This was the first of several songs in which Green harmonized with two of his bandmates for the last repeat of a verse or chorus, a powerful feature that is not as noticeable in some of the recorded versions of the songs.
Eventually, Green also performed a stripped down, acoustic version of “Little Hell” from his 2011 album. He firmly told the yelling members of the audience to quiet down with a simple “Shhh…you’re ruining it for everyone.” This song provided a break between the segments filled with guitar solos, drums, and distortion.
The highlights of the end of the show were most certainly the songs “Waiting…” and “Girl.” “Waiting” offered a dark, but optimistic perspective on the fate which awaits us all. Green extracted this idea from the song skillfully, by gradually darkening the sound of the song but still singing the same lyrics, each time urging the listener to “hold your head up high.” Then, after a tear-jerking, somber ode to a bandmate that passed away recently, Green quipped “Here’s a cheerier one.” This led into the performance of one of Green’s most famous songs, “Girl.” This is the type of song played at weddings and can only be described as being absolutely beautiful and wonderfully sweet. His acoustic version “Girl” felt even more raw ashe switched to a higher vocal part to switch up the ending of this classic song.
During his October 21 concert, Green put on display his pure vocals and meaningful lyricism. He also demonstrated an admirable ability to match his lyrics with certain features in the music,whether it be by taking advantage of a pause to electrify the chorus or using a downward cascade of notes while singing about a “long way down, so long.” Ultimately, the City and Colour performance left no doubts about Dallas Green’s musical capacity.