Dallas Green is no stranger to the Maritime provinces of Canada, much like he wrote on “Comin’ Home” from his debut record. Sometimes, “I’ve been through Nova Scotia, Sydney to Halifax/I’ll never take any pictures ‘cause I know I’ll just be right back”. A week ago, his cross-Canada tour reached its final stop here in Halifax at the Scotiabank Centre. It was music to his legion of fans who flocked to the arena to catch this stacked lineup, featuring folk-rocker Ben Rogers and neo-soul crooner Jacob Banks, and while disparate in their styles, they served to strike a harmonious balance in advance of City and Colour’s headlining set.
While the Scotiabank Centre recently played host to a far more raucous lineup of Dinosaur Pile-Up, Sum 41 and The Offspring, it was clear from the floor seating arrangement that this was going to be a more docile affair. From first glance, when Ben Rogers and his bandmates Erik Nielsen (Bass), John Sponarski (Guitar), Matt Kelly (Pedal Steel) and Leon Power (Drums) hit the stage, I was expecting something of a grunge-infused glam rock sound. Ben Rogers was channeling a definite Kurt Cobain vibe while sporting a vintage-looking leopard print topcoat, but that notion went out the window from the very moment the band started playing, as their sound was dusty country-tinged folk music. The amps may not have reached 11, but they definitely rubbed gently against that 8th notch at times. I may have walked into the arena being unfamiliar with Ben Rogers, but walked out loving the band’s music.
Then it was time for London crooner Jacob Banks to hit the stage. The Nigerian-born, London-based singer looked very much like a dad hitting the stage fresh from picking up the kids from the soccer pitch, but the moment he opened his mouth, his voice filled the Scotiabank Centre. The vast cavern that the room is, was hard-pressed to contain the sound emanating from the face of this talented artist. As massive as Banks’ vocals were, his band filled out any of the limited space, remaining in lock-step with him for the duration. It was a powerful performance, which was polarizing for some, at times missing a dynamism that could have roused some in the audience. Banks and his exceptional band sounded great, while melting the faces off of many with his otherworldly voice.
An eager anticipation hung in the air, highlighted by the cheers of jubilation that went up the moment the lights went down. City and Colour’s band made their way onto the stage and, with a casual aloofness, Dallas strapped his guitar on and strode to the microphone. As this was the final night of the A Pill For Loneliness tour, it was only fitting that the opening song was the lead single from the record, “Astronaut”. Throughout the show, Dallas shifted between the roles of front-man and solo troubadour, at times cranking the amps up to 9 with some searing guitar work on “Little Bird” and “Northern Blues”, and kept things at a strong boil for the opening 40 minutes. When it came time to turn the heat down and let the set simmer, Mr Green grabbed his guitar and the rapt attention of the comfortably packed crowd in the Scotiabank Centre. There are very few artists and/or performers that can deftly spellbind an audience the way that Dallas Green can; you could have easily heard a pin drop during his performance.
For a set list that was chock-full of deeper, lesser-known cuts, or tracks from the new record, it was a main set that was over in a blink of an eye. Due to Dallas’ fondness for the East Coast, the encore was all but guaranteed, and much like the rest of the tour, it was loaded with gems, including “The Girl”, the lead single from A Pill for Loneliness “Living in Lightning”. The night closed out with the emotionally charged “Sleeping Sickness” (which now bears a Gord-sized hole), which saw the Halifax crowd act as the proxy for Gord Downie’s verse. It was also interesting to see that Dallas’ outfit was quite similar to the outfit Gord wore on the night of his Secret Path concert (coincidentally his final Halifax performance) 3 years less a day prior. On this night, the packed room in the Scotiabank Centre had the privilege to witness a performance that sparkled and shone with the effortless magic that only City and Colour could cast. Until next time, Dallas!