Concert review: The vivid harmonies of City and Colour at the Pageant, Wednesday, November 16

City and Colour at the Pageant, November 16, 2011

Abby Gillardi

Before City and Colour took the stage, guitarist Daniel Romano (guitarist for that band) opened with set of tunes influenced by American country and Bonnie Prince Billy.

Hacienda followed Romano and offered up a bass-led, up-tempo collection of tunes that landed somewhere between OK Go and Kings of Leon.

Dallas Green, lead singer and songwriter of City and Colour, appeared on stage and began the pedal steel fueled “We Found Each Other in the Dark” from 2011′s “Little Hell.” The bass drum pushed the moonlight whiskey sentiment as Green crooned “We’re gonna live, we’re gonna live.” Romano let loose a slew of shimmering, treble notes from his guitar as the audience swayed. The pit was jammed with people — the decision to change venues from the Duck Room to the Pageant (ticket pre-sales were strong) had paid off.

“The Death of Me” rambled and jangled like a wagon weaving through the countryside. Romano’s backup vocals lent complexity to the track. Green sang, “My drinking wine will validate my sorrow. Everyman needs a muse and mine could be the bottle.” On “Waiting…” Green went acoustic and painted a pastel picture of broken love and hard times.

Green introduced his band of “five very nice Canadian boys,” and said, “This song is about my father; he is also Canadian.” The velvet guitar of “The Grand Optimist” evoked the jilted love between father and son, but Green twisted the notion: “I am the world’s poor pessimist … I guess I’ll take after my mother.” The organ built with the bass drum as the band’s “oohs” weighted the track with mesmerizing harmony.

“Weightless,” however, returned the show to an electric, up-tempo vibe and engaged in a deluge of existential questions. “Day Old Hate” found Green wondering about life and “the things we do just to stay alive.” On “Body in a Box,” Green asked the audience to “Put away the phones for just this song and just have a moment with me and you.” The song exploded with organ, acoustic, harmonica and intimations of the grim reaper. “We celebrate the lives of the dead,” Green sang. “It’s like a man’s best party only happens when he dies.”

“O’ Sister” was dedicated to all those who have been through tough times with the one they love. The finger-plucked introspection conjured the audience’s own ghosts as Green reminded, “The blackness in your heart won’t last forever. I know it’s tearing you apart, but it’s a storm you can weather.” “What Makes A Man” from 2008′s “Bring Me Your Love” featured ethereal call and response vocals, banjo and crystalline imagery. “I can see the sunset getting colder starting to freeze. What makes a man want to break a heart with ease?”

Fan-favorite, “The Girl,” was dedicated to St. Louis baseball. Green and Romano’s harmonies shone once more as the tune shaded into the singer-songwriter territory of William Fitzsimmons. The audience stood struck when “The Sleeping Sickness” rolled out with sparse strumming and tambourine. The hook before the chorus surprised with its grandeur as Green asked, “Could it be this misery will suffice?” The singer broke out distorted guitar on “Fragile Bird,” and the tune’s chorus played with climbing vocals, fuzzy bass, Cold Play-esque guitar and CSNY vocal overtones. “Sorrowing Men” brought the tempo back down with Romano’s ebbing and flowing, razor-edged guitar strums and reverence for lost love.

City and Colour encored with Green performing “Comin’ Home” alone. He played the song looser than on the record; nonetheless, Green had the audience singing from the palm of his hand. The whole band returned for City and Colour’s last tune, “Sometimes (I Wish).”

“We’ll see you down the road,” Green offered, before embracing the song’s confessions with subdued guitar and perfectly-timed vocals: “Will your heart still race for me? Will it march to a new beat?”

He ought to rest assured. After City and Colour’s performance at the Pageant, every heart in the audience will likely race for Green (and his music) for some time to come.