Tonight, the Palladium plays host to City & Colour, the renowned folk-turned-arena rock project of Alexisonfire vocalist/guitarist, Dallas Green. What promises to be a stripped back, primarily solo performance is also steeped in immense sadness.
Last September saw the untimely passing of Green‘s long-time producer, engineer, and friend of sixteen years, Karl “Horse” Bareham. With the tragedy occurring a few mere days before the release of ‘A Pill For Loneliness’ (sadly, the last record the two would collaborate on), the album’s rollout and subsequent touring have been marred by great loss.
It was only at the start of this month that Green announced that all upcoming tour dates would be without his trusted backing-band. In an attempt to “calm my world down” as he put it in a published statement, the decision is understandable. The iconic theatre even feels a much more natural fit to a show of this intimate and minimal nature.
With the final two nights of this EU/UK run taking place here in the heart of London, there must be a sense of homecoming for Brighton-based support act, Bess Atwell . The homegrown talent offers a sugary blend of emo-tinged pop with rustic country vibes.
Accompanied by touring guitarist, Christopher Matthewson, the pair are very much in sync as they weave simple acoustic melodies with electric-folk leads. Offering a set made up near entirely of songs from last year’s ‘Big Blue’ EP, the crowd give their undivided attention to Atwell‘s soothing vocals and nuanced performance. The mood is set perfectly, which is the main task put forth to any supporting act.
With a humorous and humbled presence, she remarks that “the venue is alright” before sincerely thanking Green for his including her on tour. A cover of ‘This Is The Last Time’ by The National wins over the more unfamiliar in attendance, while closer ‘Harvested’ leaves quite the lasting impression long after Atwell has left the stage.
As all goes dark, a single spotlight pours over Green, who is now fully embodying the character of City & Colour . Complete with his now iconic fedora and an acoustic guitar, he softly strums the opening chords of ‘Living In Lightning’, the first track from his latest album. It’s a natural choice, yet, when delivering the line “I’d rather walk alone than stand in a row”, the selection seems fitting.
From here on, it’s a career-spanning set of material. Special attention, however, is paid to Green‘s first three releases; ‘Sometimes’, ‘Bring Me Your Love’, and ‘Little Hell’, with a showcasing of fan-favourites and a live revival of deep cuts, kept from the stage for many years.
What seems remarkable is the specificity of the material. Every song feels precisely placed while there’s a true sense of an artist using their own work as a means of coping. Prior to performing new album highlight, ‘Difficult Love’, Green admits to originally not knowing what the song was truly about at the time of writing. He goes on to say “I think I know now, and I need it”, before dedicating it to “anyone who’s going through it right now.” No attempt is made to hide his current state of mind. Instead, there’s a fragile sincerity that adds massive weight to the performance.
While half of the set is completely solo, multi-instrumentalist and friend, Matt Kelly, assists on several songs. Utilising lead and lap steel guitar, piano and organ, he helps immensely to add layers and depth while never detracting from the core songwriting. The sound is exceptional, simultaneously huge yet remarkably gentle.
Green‘s vocals are effortless and faultless, with expert control over his voice and regular use of falsetto. The lighting also plays a massive role in creating a rich, warm atmosphere that helps to elevate the proceedings to true spectacle.
While the show is melancholic by design, fans are still as impassioned and energetic as ever. Rapturous applause is constantly showered upon Green, while a man’s marriage proposal is accepted during arguably the sweetest City & Colour single, ‘The Girl’. The gesture touches the Canadian songwriter, dedicating ‘Hello, I’m In Delaware’ to the newly engaged couple.
A flawless, and riveting performance, this tour has, in Green‘s own words, been his attempt to find his way back to the light. If tonight is anything to go by, he’s hopefully getting closer and closer.