San Francisco-based band Sleepy Sun opened with a set of psychedelic rock that seemed a bit self-indulgent in some of the extended instrumental jam sessions. The group could benefit from some editing, and lead singer Bret Constantino's vocals, strong on record, were lost in the house mix. That said, the throbbing drums and hungry electric guitar wail wooed me. By the end of the set, my thoughts were less "Great. Music to score your drug overdose" and more, "Nice. Music to make babies to." The drums were winning through the whole set; drummer Brian Tice is absolutely the backbone to this group's sound.
The break between opening act and the main event flew by and smiles spread across the room at hearing City and Colour's introductory music, a repeating loop of the "However do you want me / However do you need me" portion of 1989's "Back to Life" by Soul II Soul. The band wasted no time launching right into "Of Space & Time," which was written about Green's former band Alexis on Fire. In fact, the entire album was recorded in November of 2012 when that group was coming to an end.
He sang, "I'm roaming through the hills / All alone. / I'm trying to find my direction home / A question of space / A matter of time / I follow the stars until the first light." These thoughts seem to be the overarching theme of Green's newest LP "The Hurry and the Harm." The second song, "The Lonely Life" continued that thread. However, the complete "tapestry" of the night was woven with far more threads from previous albums, heavy with songs from "Little Hell" especially.
The snappy strumming of the opening bars of "Grand Optimist" won the audience's approval, and as Green sang, beautiful slashing strands of light were criss-crossing and intersecting around him, enclosing him in beams. They went straight into "As Much as I Ever Could," which always scoops my guts out and lays me bare; it's such a lush and gorgeous song. After two more songs from "Little Hell," "Silver and Gold" and "Weightless," the band exited the stage leaving Green on his own. I am partial to these moments in a set; just a man and his guitar.
Green asked, "How many of you were conflicted tonight?" referring to the Cardinals playing in Game 4 of the World Series at that same moment in time. "You bought tickets a long time ago and didn't think your team was going to get in the World Series. It's okay. I get it. I'm a sports fan and I probably wouldn't have come either. I mean but with you motherfuckers it happens all the time. 'Oh, I'm a Cardinals fan. Oh we're winning. We're always winning,'" he deadpanned.
After a few moments of silence, yet again someone took it as a sign to shout out a song request: "Love Don't Live Here Anymore." Without missing a beat, Green scoffed, "Not after tonight, no it doesn't," which got a huge laugh from the crowd. Despite what he had just said, he showed the audience some love saying, "Here's something I've never done before," and strummed into "Little Hell," the title song of his 2011 release.
Before playing the only other song from the new album in that night's set, "Paradise," Green shared that it's about those "days when you know you should be in a better mood than you are." He referenced the moment in the Generation X movie, "Say Anything" when Joan Cusack says, "How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in awhile?" Toward the end of that song the rest of the band returned to the stage, picked up their instruments and with no break between songs, they launched right into "We Found Each Other in the Dark."
Afterward, it became clear that someone in the audience had pre-arranged this moment with the band, and the song served as the soundtrack to a marriage proposal; tres romantique. Green joked, "I thought you were gonna blow it, but you didn't. I'm proud of ya!"
The band powered through "Sleeping Sickness," the second single from City and Colour's second LP "Bring Me Your Love" and then eased into "Harder Than Stone," a song that always puts me in mind of James Taylor, especially the opening bit. Green attempted to get the youths in the pit to sing along, and when that failed, to snap along again to no avail. "That kind of felt like a Sunday night when the World Series is happening. Let's turn it into a Saturday night when the World Series is happening." Before launching into the next song he said, with his typical dry wit, "This song is about dying." Peals of laughter around me covered up the first few notes of "Waiting."
Strobe lights pulsated through the beginning of one of the band's sexiest songs, "Fragile Bird." Green morphed the end of that song with the refrain from "As Much As I Ever Could"; he repeated the line "No I am not / Where I belong" and then seamlessly flowed into the final song of the set "Sorrowing Man."
After a very brief time offstage, Green returned solo for the first part of the encore. About half-way through "The Girl," the rest of the band returned for an upbeat and more countrified end portion of the tune. The night concluded with "Sometimes (I Wish)" in which Green sang, "Sometimes I wonder why / I'm so full of these endless rhymes / About the way I feel inside."
All I know is that I am hopeful that those rhymes are indeed endless. City and Colour never lets a listener down. The power, grace and passion that come from the music of Dallas Green flow into his listeners as if veins had opened and we are all pressed together, making us all blood brothers and sisters from the music.
Of Space and Time
The Lonely Life
As Much as I Ever Could
Silver and Gold
We Found Each Other in the Dark
Harder Than Stone
Sometimes (I Wish)