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Live Review: City and Colour - Royal Albert Hall, London (04/25/11)

“Growing up where we grew up, this isn’t something that’s on the list of things you think you’re gonna get to do” offers Dallas Green shortly after the final notes of set opener ‘Forgive Me’ ring out over an enraptured Royal Albert Hall. But from humble beginnings, Green has become a performer whose work with both City and Colour and Alexisonfire inspires a following bordering on fanatical. Tonight’s highly anticipated show bears witness to this, with all 5000+ seats of this magnificent venue having sold out within a few hours.

Possessed of a voice that is, at times, breathtaking in its haunting clarity, he is on superb form. The opening salvo of ‘Forgive Me’, ‘The Death Of Me’ and ‘Waiting’, all from 2008’s 'Bring Me Your Love' are meaty and satisfying, the band behind him adding an extra dimension to songs that, acoustic or not, hardly need it in the first place. Following on seamlessly, ‘Fragile Bird’, the first of the new songs aired has got a soulful groove to it and a re-worked ‘Sam Malone’ from 2005’s 'Sometimes' sees Green show off his ability to express himself almost as well with the guitar as with his voice.

It is next song ‘As Much As I Ever Could’, however, that provides the evening’s first truly magical moment, vocals soaring as the superb lighting completes an absolutely electric atmosphere. It’s really quite a moving moment and seems perfectly placed in the spectacular surroundings.

After such a high, Green does perhaps the only sensible thing he can and sheds his band for a time. In a sense though, by stripping back to simple guitar and vocals, the way it all began, he is giving the fans what they really want. ‘Like Knives’ is humble and authentic before the crowd are exhorted to put away their mobiles and cameras for a stunning rendition of ‘Body In A Box’. Aside from the odd rogue flash, they hold fast and the resulting absence of LED lights dotted around the auditorium is strange and wonderful indeed.

A cover of Adele’s ‘Hometown Glory’ is a well-judged and stylishly executed crowd pleaser, while several more 'Bring Me Your Love' favourites, ‘What Makes A Man’ and ‘Sleeping Sickness’ sandwich impressive new number ‘Silver and Gold’ to round out the main set.

There is, of course, the small matter of the encores to come, and with so many favourites yet unplayed, Green has plenty of choice as to what to bring out. He makes a populist decision, however, when he sits down at the piano to play his much-loved "cover" of ‘Happiness By The Kilowatt’, the song he made famous with Alexisonfire but that has since become a kind-of holy grail of a City and Colour live set. This is followed by spine-tingling renditions of ‘Comin’ Home’ and ‘Sometimes (I Wish)’ the latter of which ends with Green slipping into the vocal melody from James Blake’s 'Wilhelm Scream', an appropriately minimalist and thoroughly magical end to an evening that only cements him as a truly outstanding solo talent.

In the current climate, where folky pop rules and less-talented singer-songwriters are credited with undeserved genius, it’s entirely possible that City and Colour could take the final step into super-stardom. None of the assembled would begrudge him the success. One thing is true above all though: tonight we saw Dallas Green, ably backed up by his excellent band, play out of his skin in truly special surroundings.

Nick Worpole

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