City and Colour Vibes Out On A Cold And Rainy Night
The first cold night in weeks in Atlanta, and with rain adding an element to the dreariness, I ran from my car to the long queue outside Variety Playhouse. I spoke to the front-of-the-line troopers. They had been camped out since 5pm for the sold-out show, and did not care about the rain or cold. They were just excited to be serenaded by Dallas Green. Once the doors opened at 8, I managed to get inside with a front and center standing spot by the stage.
As the lights dim signaling the entrance of the Austin-based opener, Greyhounds, we see an astronaut walk out on the stage with robotic movements. Ok, I've never seen Greyhounds before, this is unexpected but maybe this is a young psychedelic jam group or something. The astronaut makes his way haltingly to the mic, keeping up the robotic movements and begins the show introducing the band. He released his helmet's visor to reveal burner goggles still masking the face of this mysterious character.
What I definitely did not expect was a band of three older gentlemen who played a jazzy soul set. We did not hear from the astronaut again during the remainder of their opening show. However, that space dude stayed on that stage the whole damn time doing a spacey robot dance. Sometimes in the front dancing alongside vocalist/guitarist Andrew Trube and sometimes creepin' in the back, with those goggles flashing in the lights. Just dancing. And staring, with those goggles. I almost suspected someone snuck acid in my beer until I turned to my friend to confirm this was really happening.
As our photographer, Sidney, described it, "I really think that was the weirdest part about it all. He was just like, 'I'll be back here behind the drums. And then over here by the keys. And then sometimes off stage. I do what I want.'"
Maybe it was just us, but for most of the opening act all I could think was, "What the shit biscuits is going on?" The band itself was actually quite enjoyable, their music crisp and soulful. I still can't decide if the astronaut is a clever marketing ploy or too much of a distraction from their potential.
The opener walks (and robot dances) off stage and there is the usual gap between bands. I look back and see the completely packed out Variety and realize I dare not leave my spot for anything, the chances of being able to fight my way back to this perfect vantage point is not likely. Then the lights dim again and over the speaker Soul II Soul's "Back To Life" begins playing, repeating, "However do you want me, however do you need me. How, however do you want me, however do you need me." We want you Dallas Green, we want that beautiful voice of yours here and now. Comprised of singer and songwriter, Dallas Green, City and Colour represents this one man. But Dallas often tours with rotating musicians to create a melodic folk band atmosphere with an intimately acoustic feel.
The lights were subtly vibrant, not taking any attention away from the performance but adding color to a musically beautiful performance. Hues of purples and blues accompanied their lower tempo songs like "Lover Come Back" and "Wasted Love," while more energetic greens and yellows enhanced their performance of songs like "The Grand Optimist."
Switching out guitars for almost every song Dallas pleased the crowd with old and new songs alike. "Peaceful Road," released earlier this year, had good reception. When "The Girl" began the crowd lovingly sang along from first word to very last. It was a moment you could see they would have stretched out forever.
Dallas paused the show a few times to tell the crowd that the message for the night, and present in several of his songs, was to "stop the hate and judgement and just like each other." He asked us to log off our Twitter handles, stop hating on our peers, and just be in the moment for the next four minutes. After preaching this message on two different occasions he admitted to not speaking too often to the crowd, telling us that he could talk us to death but we paid to hear him sing, not give a motivational speech. True enough, sir.
With artists like City and Colour, their folksy music brings out the nostalgic memories for many of their fans, and this was clearly evident in the crowd this night. Each person singing along, lost in whatever moment that song drudged up from the past. Memories of fond happiness and peace, and some memories of sadness and pain. Every patron there was in their own mental bubble, experiencing the set in a very different way than their neighbor. It was the perfect show for a cold rainy night in Atlanta.
Photos by Sidney Spear for Bullet Music