City and Colour Festival Main Stage, Halifax NS, July 14
Published Jul 15, 2016When Dallas Green first broke out as a solo performer under the City and Colour banner, it was the combination of his whispery, almost ethereal voice over cleanly played acoustic guitar that struck a nerve. But that sweetness has grown to include more bluesy, edgy undertones over his last couple of records, and it's arguably the dominant feeling of last year's If I Should Go Before You — which Green has called, quite fairly, a "band" record.
At Thursday night's (July 14) Halifax Jazz Festival show, that band included familiar faces like Raconteurs/Dead Weather bassist Jack Lawrence and Constantines drummer Doug MacGregor weaving their way through set opener "Woman." Perhaps it was the outdoor venue on a blustery night, or the chatty crowd, but the If I Should Go material's slow-burning intensity came across as a bit slow, languid. Sounds like the jittery guitar on a song like "Northern Blues" — which, on the recording, gives a sense of urgency — failed to translate, and the pairing of five or six similarly paced songs in a row early in the set had me anxious for something more rhythmically forceful to mix things up.
"Wasted Love" fit the bill, with its slinky groove, as did the folksy strum of "Sleeping Sickness." Given the recent news of his cancer diagnosis, it was hard not to think of Gord Downie during the latter performance, given the song is a duet with the Tragically Hip frontman on 2008's Bring Me Your Love. That sentiment was doubled down as Green opened the encore with a solo acoustic performance of the Hip's "Bobcaygeon," his voice making the song less like a lived memory and more like a remembered dream.
The set was generous in scope, particularly considering it was a festival slot. Green and his band jammed nearly 20 songs into the show, covering all five of his albums (the least served being 2013's The Hurry and the Harm, with only "Two Coins" in the set).
The night closed with a large-scale take on Little Hell's "Hope for Now," but as expected, it was another encore song, "Comin' Home" — with its explicit shout-outs to both Nova Scotia and Halifax — that earned the greatest crowd reaction. "I'll never take any pictures / 'Cause I know I'll just be right back," Green sang — hopefully a promise, as a different setting would greatly benefit his evolving sound.