Review: Moody and melancholy rock from City and Colour

What: City and Colour with Jacob Banks and Ben Rogers
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St., Victoria
When: Friday
Rating: Four stars out of five

City and Colour has been on a considerable run in recent years, with four consecutive albums hitting No. 1 on the sales charts in Canada. That level of forward momentum was evident as the five-piece band, led by Toronto singer-guitarist Dallas Green, began its tour of Canada at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday. Playing to a vocal audience of 4,059 fans, Green and Company delivered a show befitting their reputation as one of the top rock acts in Canada. And without a doubt, there's still room for them to grow.

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There was an edge to portions of the show, specifically in the guitar playing, but nothing that matched the angular metal of Green's other band, Alexisonfire. That's where the artistic lines are drawn, with regards to the division of labour in Green's world: City and Colour is moody mid-tempo rock for fans who don't mind some melancholy with their music. Alexisonfire is pure, violent catharsis.

City and Colour was painted nicely with two opening acts, British singer-songwriter Jacob Banks — whose butter-smooth vocals drew raves — and B.C. singer-songwriter Ben Rogers. But this was a show for the big boys, and City and Colour were the kings of the heap.

A Pill For Loneliness, the band's sixth album, is an atmospheric affair, with plenty of studio touches and sonic exploration. Green is at the point in his career where he's willing to take some chances, and his ability to bring his new inventions to the stage in a way that sounded seamless was his biggest strength on this night.
He mixed new songs (Astronaut and Strangers were standouts) into the running order, and they sat nicely alongside classics from his back catalogue.

Sleeping Sickness, Green's duet with Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, closed out the show with a campfire singalong. But a recurring theme were the guitars, which chimed in a long, elastic way that would make both Neil Young and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour proud.

The first half of the 100-minute set was a showcase for Green's stage techs, who created a unique tapestry for each song with impressive light mappings. When the energy was lacking on stage, and it did lag in spots, the visual cues gave fans something to key on. Whatever Green is paying his lighting director, it isn't enough.

Green's voice is strong enough to cover any rough spots, which were in short supply during his bravura performance. An acoustic middle portion — where Northern Wind shone brightly — gave Green time to distill his essence into a few ceiling-piercing moments of pure beauty. That's what a City and Colour concert offers in a nutshell: a sonic snapshot on the journey of a performer. Not yet 40, he has decades of highways in front of him. 

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