Strolling past the Arts Centre at 5pm on Sunday, there was already about fifteen people waiting outside the gates, intent of securing prime positions. A large sign proclaimed ‘NO DOOR SALES – SOLD OUT SHOW’. By 7pm, capacity (3100 people) had been reached; you could barely see the lawn for the blankets and bodies.
Support act, Bahamas, a one-man acoustic guitarist and vocalist had an amusing set including the song, ‘Hockey Teeth’ about an girl whose teeth used to bump his when they kissed.
City and Colour took to the stage to loud applause and whistles at 8pm. Accompanying the projects creative mind, singer-songwriter Dallas Green, on stage were a drummer, electric guitarist, keyboardist and bassist. They launched straight into the first two tracks off the latest album, Little Hell – the harrowing ballad ‘We Found Each Other In The Dark’ followed by the more upbeat ‘Natural Disaster’. In the hush that followed, members of the huge group crowded in front of the stage called out song titles, to which Dallas good-naturedly replied, ‘What if we’re going to play those songs, we’re just taking our time getting to them? Then you’ll feel silly.’ As the opening chords of ‘Sleeping Sickness’ were played, the crowd cheered in appreciation to hear their first taste of his 2008 acclaimed album, Bring Me Your Love.
Next was another new track, ‘Grand Optimist’, with the crowd singing along to the solemn chorus ‘I guess I take after my mother’. ‘As Much As I Ever Could’ highlighted Dallas’s depth as a lyricist, as he bemoaned the ache that distance causes lovers. The bands backing vocals on the sighs that punctuate between verses added additional intensity to the tender track. Then the tempo changed, as the bluesy chords that herald ‘Weightless’ were heard. This rockier song verified the bands talent, through electric guitar solos and frenetic drumming, which built up the ballads tension to a climax. The band then left the stage.
Lit by a single white spotlight, Dallas described being upstairs earlier in the evening watching the crowd enter the grounds, and expressed his happiness at being able to play the last show of the tour in such a beautiful setting. ‘Day Old Hate’, off his sophomore 2005 album, Sometimes, was performed as the entire audience watched in utter silence. His voice was haunting. The opening bars ‘So let’s face it/This was never what you wanted/But I know it’s fun to pretend/But now blank stares and empty threats/Are all I have’ prompting couples to wrap their arms around each other tightly. The line ‘I fall, I fall, I falter’ was dragged out, his voice carrying up the grassy hill and echoing through the tall trees.
Dallas then asked ‘everyone with a phone or camera or camera-phone who has been recording, put it up in the air…now put it in your pocket.’ This was met with laughter as people looked around sheepishly. He stated, ‘I don’t want you to want to remember the moment so much that you don’t experience the actual moment’. For ‘Body In A Box’, he split the crowd in half and asked for help with the chorus. It quickly became apparent that only a small section was humouring him, which promoted further laughter.
The band returned for ‘The Girl’, (which had a decidedly more country flavour than the album version), followed closely by ‘Little Hell’. ‘Waiting’ was a psychedelic performance with Dallas on electric guitar and an instrumental section by the band that made it all the more soulful. Everyone then exited the stage. The crowd kept clapping until Dallas reappeared, holding up his beer and toasting the crowd, saying ‘I would have been back sooner but I had to pee so bad it was crazy’. He was incredibly humble, telling the rapt crowd, ‘when I say thank-you…I really mean it…it’s a strange feeling to be a guy from a little town in Canada and write these songs and really want people to listen to them…if I had a more eloquent way to say it I would but I can’t fucking figure it out because it makes me feel so good so just…thank-you.’
He then played ‘Coming Home’, with an a cappella ending – his voice impressive in its power and subtlety. The band had crept on-stage in the inky darkness, as Dallas told us that immediately after the show they were flying back to Canada. ‘Hope For Now’ was slow and bluesy, full of feeling. An extended solo on the electric guitar by Dallas closed the show at 10pm. Everyone in the departing crowd appeared blissed out – couples whispering in each others ears, friends arm in arm grinning broadly at one another. As I walked out of the grounds with a picnic blanket tucked under my arm, I could not help but smile wider as a guy in front of me remarked ‘it is just so nice to see men getting their hearts out there’. Indeed.
By Lisa Morrison. Photography by Daniel Kwabena Craig.