City and Colour
Life after post-hardcore
What: City and Colour
When: 9 pm Thu., Sep. 28
Where: Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Dallas Green looks like a rock musician. There’s no getting around it. To put a finer point on it, what with his many tattoos combined with an overall clean-cut sensibility, he looks like a certain breed of post-hardcore musician.
That is, of course, what he is. At least, it’s what he was.
Before Green adopted the moniker City and Colour, he was a founding member of Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. They described their music as the “sound of two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight,” a reference to one of their songs and the kind of catchy characterization that could mean all kinds of things, but almost certainly suggests they weren’t writing tenderhearted ballads. Whatever your opinions of screamo music might be, Alexisonfire was successful at it, as evidenced by the albums that went platinum in Canada, the Juno award they won, their stint on the Warped Tour and the many, many sold-out shows they played.
In short, they had a good thing going. Then, after four albums, hundreds of concerts and thousands of albums sold, as the band was writing songs for its fifth studio release, Green walked away from Alexisonfire. He was finished—for the moment—with that kind of music and that piece of his life. There was someone else he needed to be, musically speaking at least.
For years, Green had been writing songs under the name City and Colour and releasing them on the internet for fans and anyone else who might come across them. When he began, he was reluctant to attach his name to the nascent project, so he called it City and Colour because that is what his name is: a city and a color. The naming convention was both straightforward and clever—qualities that also apply to his songs.
If Alexisonfire was high-volume, in-your-face spectacle, City and Colour is anything but. Although he has collaborated with various artists and sometimes plays with a backing band, for the most part, City and Colour remains as it has always been, just Green and his acoustic guitar. The voice that belted out the “clean” half of Alexisonfire’s vocals is now applied to tender, insightful folk songs of love and loss and all of the smaller moments in between—and the effect is captivating.
Sure, Green can sing, but it’s the songs themselves that appeal to his ever-increasing number of intensely dedicated fans. His vulnerability is often cited as being his standout quality as a songwriter, and he does indeed lay himself bare, but his true appeal is more likely how relatable so many of his lyrics are. Instead of speaking to us, he’s speaking for us. With City and Colour, Green says the things we wish we could say, the way we wish we could say them, if we were able to speak of our emotions in expertly crafted rhyming couplets.
When Green sings “There’s a degree of difficulty in dealing with me” or “I will blame myself for holding onto what I thought would keep you by my side” or “From my haunted past comes the daunting task of living through the memories,” he’s visiting places we’ve all been, even if we might not live there right now. And he makes lyrics like “You need not find a cure for everything that makes you weak” and “When all the hard times outweigh the good, and all your words are misunderstood, when the day seems lost from the start, you must follow your heart” sound like reassurances from a trusted friend.
This sense of intimacy and ownership of Green’s music pervades his live performances as well. From better-known songs to deep cuts, his concerts are renowned for the amount of audience members who sing right along with him. Not every fan sings every song, but each item on the set list is someone’s jam, and they’ve been waiting for their chance to see it performed live.
Of late, Green has played an Alexisonfire show here and there, rekindling chatter of a full-blown reunion and possible tour. But for now and the foreseeable future, he remains firmly focused on City and Colour. The man who once screamed his guts out is now perfectly happy to wear his heart on his sleeve.
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