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[Review] City and Colour @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne 09/02/2023

It’s been seven long years since Canadian, alt-rock singer-songwriter Dallas Green last graced Australian shores, and it was no wonder his one-night-only at The Forum was filled to the brink. Being recognisable to Aussie audiences for his solo venture City and Colour, this was set to be a triumphant return – a night of some of the strongest rock instrumentals layered with signature heart-wrenching lyricism.

Dallas’ audiences are unmistakable. Humble and kind, yet visibly so passionate about the music. Entering the space felt safe, calm and familiar – quite abnormal for a rock show – with the buzz of individuals reconnecting over a shared love of live music, and a heavy passion for rock.

Many artists on a solo venture will try to distance themselves from their past, but having Dooms Children open the show was the perfect decision. Old bandmate and much loved ‘brother’ Wade MacNeil’s solo project is heavy psychedelia, with a hint of blues and hard-hitting lyricism – and the crowd adored it.

As the five-piece band of old rockers entered the stage, you could tell they’d been here before. The quiet confidence, steady beat, and emotive guitar riffs felt grounded and calming, before suddenly being hit with a surge of husky vocals chanting haunting lyrics. The entire set boasted a highly cinematic feel – with the broad emotions of band being easily read, and exceedingly relatable.

Dooms Children’s set closely mimicked being pulled under vicious waves, for every time you’d come up for air, an entirely new and consuming sound would follow. There was something so fresh about the psychedelic feel of the contrasting sounds between the instruments; and the dimly lit, slow moving spotlights and smoke added to the dazed and confused sensation that followed the songs.

Psyche Hospital Blues was a standout, with distorted keys and mumbled vocals creating the signature psychedelic sound. Each individual instrument could be heard and stood perfectly alone, but when brought together with the band created something totally moving. The whole set connected perfectly like one long film.

Following was several songs from the breakout, self-titled album. Skeleton Beach, a calm and melodic tune showcased some gorgeous harmonies, whilst Wade worked the crowd to the palm of his hand – smirking proudly as the lyrics were being sung out with such passion. Friend of the Devil closed out the set, filled with recognisable descending scales, creating a sense of security before throwing the crowd off with ambiguous, seemingly random notes and lyrics. ‘A friend of the devil is a friend of mine’ being chanted repetitively, with steadily increasing tempo backing the drawn-out rock jam. Being so brazenly comfortable with his guitar and his vocals, Dooms Children is sure to be a talking point throughout the rock community for years to come.

The tension was palpable as The Forum drew quiet, craving the main act of the night, City and Colour.  With the backing band returning, front man Dallas Green made his humble beginning, with ‘thanks for being here’ being the only words needed – as the music to come would speak for itself.

Kicking off with Meant to Be, the slow-moving autumn colours paired with acoustic guitar and sublime vocals – the crowd enthralled. From the outset Dallas’ vocal range was astonishing, the voice that has cemented him as one of the greats of rock music. The song’s intensity increased steadily, mimicking a heavy heartbeat and directing the unconscious movement of the crowd. 

Moving uninterrupted from one song to the next, Living in Lightning was paired with an enchanting ceiling of purple light, fitting for the slow and steady beat, overlays of gorgeous bass riffs, and heavy ringing electric guitar. Hypnotic, repetitive keys moved steadily into his next song. ‘When I think of fates worse than death, all I can think of was something you said’, Thirst details an intimate relationship, and the vulnerabilities in self-criticism. This universal feeling could be seen on the faces of the band as they put their heart and soul into the jarring, heavy rock ballad.

The music never ceased, as the band rolled into the sultry, bass-driven fan-favourite, Northern Blues. A complete drop of light between verse and chorus providing a visual representation of the lyrics. Strangers was the point of the night where it was clear the audience were becoming totally immersed in the music, almost hypnotised by the synchronicity of the band. Every hit of the kick drum prompting the crowd’s uninhibited movement. 

After a half hour of interminable music, Dallas took to the mic to address the crowd. ‘This song is about trying to be kinder to each other’… his message is clear, nothing further needed to be said. We Found Each Other in the Dark was angelic, and a highlight of the evening.

A complete change of pace came with the emotionally charged, guitar heavy, Weightless. Paired with piercing red strobe, the ironic weight of the song rocked the venue with such velocity, building towards an abrupt blackout. ‘I’m tired of everyone saying I’m this sad motherfucker… I’m just singing about what’s real’ – These words reigned so true as Hello, I’m in Delaware provided a moving commentary on fame and living life on the road. The emotion of Dallas’ music is not only drawn from the content of his lyrics, but in the authenticity they are delivered with.

Drawing towards the end of the set, Underground, the band’s latest record was welcomed with great reception. A new sound for the group, being highly layered and multidimensional, filled the room with a fresh, uplifted impression. A change of pace, Sorrowing Man packed with intimate jams left the crowd without a word, but with the hum of a final note ringing out – there was a thirst for more as the band departed the stage.

When City and Colour returned moments later for a generous encore, the energy hit a new high with the crowd suddenly surging forward, being drawn into the final songs of the night like a moth to a flame. The mainly acoustic encore provided space for the fans to sing side-by-side with the band. Comin’ Home and The Girl were highly nostalgic and imprinted on the hearts of his fans, as evident in every word and harmony that bounced from Dallas to the crowd, and then came bounding right back at him.

The stage lit up for the final song, the audience in clear view of the band. Sleeping Sickness left us with what did not feel like a ‘goodbye’, but a ‘see you soon’. A beautiful way of sending out what had been a breathtaking night. Above all else, the superb lyricism and lighting, and the adoring sea of fans – this night was about the music, which can only be described as perfect.

You can still catch City and Colour one more time for this tour in Brisbane.

Monday 13th Feb 2023 @ The Tivoli, Brisbane

Tickets available here

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