LIVE: City and Colour, London Bush Hall

By Chris Marshman

Dallas Green, the ex-Alexisonfire frontman and force behind City and Colour, is no stranger to intimate venues. Before selling out the Camden Roundhouse for two dates in October 2011 and the grand Albert Hall earlier that year, he graced the comparably tiny stage at Islington’s Union Chapel.

Needless to say, his rise in popularity since that show has been substantial, and the demand for tickets unprecedented. Lavishly decorated – including the token chandeliers – the Shepherd Bush venue fits around 350 spectators, offering a rare opportunity to see City and Colour up close and personal.

The support arrives in the form of little known Twin Forks (formally Twin Falls until some random legal disputes). Comprising members from Bad Books, The Narrative and Dashboard Confessional – including Carrabba himself – their Americana spin on traditional folk is suitably upbeat but fails to blow away. Sounding like the result of an alternative Christian conversion, the music would not be out-of-place at a church retreat, other than some of the more adult lyrical content. Still the strong upbeat moments sound very promising and with such exciting creative juices from the indie, rock and emo worlds, Twin Forks could be ones to look out for.

Dallas Green takes to the stage accompanied by a full backing band, including members from The Constantines and The Raconteurs. More prominent than in previous outings the band indicates the evolution from his early days back in the Union Chapel, which was a more solitary affair.

Far removed from the introverted beauty of earlier performances, the band switch the focal point away from Dallas’ gentle tones, instead amping up the guitars. Reimagining the likes of ‘Sometimes (I Wish)’ – taken from his debut album – demonstrates the ability to play with his material, but distracts from what made the songs unique in the first place. Tellingly, when the sound is stripped back in ‘Hello, I’m in Delaware’, the response from the crowd far surpasses that of accompanied material.

Surprisingly, It is ‘Sorrowing Man’ from his more recent ‘Little Hell’ and an early appearance of ‘As Much as I Ever Could’ that see Green drop a vocal register and truly bellow the words with an awe inspiring voice. These moments overpower the supporting instruments and act as a reminder of why City and Colour eventually surpassed Green’s previous band, inviting the intimacy that characterised early performances back in.

There is no denying that Dallas Green has a mesmerising voice and a sharp-witted on-stage presence – both of which guarantee an excellent evening regardless. Similarly the setlist bounds across the back-catalogue ensuring, despite his obvious personal separation between the first two and latter two albums, that all bases are covered. With a crowd of die-hard fans it would always be impossible to play all the desired songs, but they give it a damn good go.
Dividing the time between solo performances and full accompaniment, it becomes a tale of two cities – on one side we want for more acoustic renditions of our favourites, yet on the other we appreciate the development in sound, including the obviously designed for a live environment ‘Of Space and Time’ and ‘The Lonely Life’. Ultimately, City and Colour remain at their best when the showcase is pulled back, and Green is given full reign.