Words by Natalie Blacklock
All photos by Sam Townsend // IG : @meltingwax_photography
*** Please always credit our photographers when sharing their work on social media – do not edit their images, and ask permission first before using their images for any other purposes. ***
City and Colour – the recording alias for Canadian singer-songwriter Dallas Green – perhaps better known as the Guitarist and Vocalist of post-hardcore band Alexisonfire, began performing in intimate venues between Alexisonfire tours but has grown into his own since the release of his first solo effort, ‘Sometimes’ in 2005. Many Brissie fans of AOF are chomping at the bit with Alexisonfire slated to play The Fortitude Music Hall on Friday with Aussie legends Luca Brasi in tow. But first, the solo magic reigns with Green bringing the City and Colour project to life with Alexisonfire bandmate Wade MacNeil sharing the bill, under his own solo moniker, Dooms Children. The evening’s venue, The Tivoli, is arguably one of Brisbane’s best venues. Built in 1917, the Costin Street location, originally purposed as a bakery, produced some of the finest cakes in the Sunshine State. Since then, The Tivoli has been remodelled a number of times – once used by the State Library of Queensland to store rare books and as a French-style Cabaret theatre for Expo ‘88 before morphing to its current form as one of Brisbane’s premiere live music venues. The venue is as regal as they come and the perfect backdrop for a night of swoon.
A steady line of punters made their way into the venue, with the room already chockers as Dooms Children prepared to take the stage. Slated as a deeply beautiful meditation on depression, addiction and hopeful redemption, the project came together during Wade MacNeil’s darkest hours, with unflinchingly honest lyrics contrasting a swooning psych-rock background, punctuated with touches of lush Americana. Stepping out on stage in beige coloured fringed pants, a blue-wash denim jacket and his Gibson Flying V, MacNeil pulled no punches as he greeted the crowd; “What’s up you cunts? We’re Dooms Children”. Opening their set with Flower Moon, the fuzzed-out guitar of John Sponarski (Lead Guitar) combined with MacNeil’s husky drawl to set the scene perfectly for Dooms Children’s first Brisbane show.
The track opened up into a full chorus and multi-part harmonies with the assistance of the band: Matthew Kelly on Keys / Guitars, Erik Nielsen on Bass, John Sponarski on Lead Guitar and Leon Power on Drums. Trip With Me delivered a punchy introduction to the range of Dooms Children, involving the attentive crowd early with a bit of a clap-along. Next track, Psyche Hospital Blues was a stand-out, with beautiful harmonies throughout highlighting the vulnerability in MacNeil’s lyricism on this project. Skeleton Beach delivered a change of pace with MacNeil leading an impromptu crowd singalong through the outro, as his gravelly, sandpaper voice echoed “Melt away, my troubles, melt away”. MacNeil paused to reflect on how far he and Green have come musically over the years; “Here we are 20 years later singing songs in Australia and it feels really nice” before launching into album single Heavy Year. Closing out the set with a cover of The Grateful Dead’s 1970 track, Friend Of The Devil, the band riffed out right to the end, concluding their first Australian tour in style and leaving quite the impression on the crowd.
The anticipation had reached feverpitch by the time City and Colour took to the stage. Cutting a distinguished figure in a blue-brown toned Hawaiian shirt, Dallas Green and the band (CC: the same band as Dooms Children) were greeted with rapturous applause before they launched into Meant To Be – City and Colour’s first new music since the release of acclaimed 2019 album ‘A Pill For Loneliness’, and comes following the painful, life-changing loss of producer and close friend Karl Bareham in a drowning incident on the Gold Coast, while the band were down under earlier that year. Live In Lightning laid bare the intricate instrumentation behind the City and Colour sound as the song soared, driven by John Sponarski on Lead Guitar and Leon Power on Drums right from the beginning. Things got a little louder and brighter with the upbeat and sultry, “dancing shoes” worthy Thirst, taken from 2013’s ‘The Hurry and The Harm’. The vibe stayed up-tempo for 2019 track, Strangers and as the set continued, 2013 track Two Coins incorporated the jangly Americana feel with Kelly’s keyboard prowess at the forefront. Green proclaimed that “This is a song about being kind to one another” before launching into the emotional We Found Each Other In The Dark. An audible heckle from crowd requested that the band “play some more sad shit”. Green and the band laughed, retorting, “Haha I get it. That’s what Wade said earlier” before embarking on the groovy and soulful Weightless. Green again paused to address the crowd; “Lots of people just think I’m a sad motherfucker writing about sad shit. This song gets a bad rap. But it’s not about dying it’s about living”, before ripping into 2008 track Waiting…. This track has been a personal favourite since its release and this stellar live rendition goes a long way to proving why – the instrumentation and lyricism painting such vivid imagery as one listens.
Following up was older cut, Hello, I’m In Delaware, from City and Colour’s 2005 debut record ‘Sometimes’, which provided a moment for reflection as Green spoke of “Writing the song almost 20 years ago while getting into vans and touring” alongside MacNeil and George (Petitt) (frontman, Alexisonfire). Matt Kelly’s work on the Pedal Steel Guitar combined with Green’s vocal effects added depth to the track. The band debuted recent single, Underground, lifted from the soon-to-be-released album ‘The Love Still Held Me Near’. Nielsen’s groovy Bassline brought light to the track, offering a strong message to embrace every moment in life. Fragile Bird, taken from 2011’s ‘Little Hell’ was an upbeat take on the uncontrollable night terrors experienced by Green’s wife, Canadian TV personality Leah Miller. The fuzzed-out outro led straight in to the set’s final track Sorrowing Man, which showcased some of Green’s most soaring and intimate vocals, and provided the perfect setting for the band to explore some extended and intricate jams.
The lights dimmed and the band left the stage to deafening and well-deserved applause. After a few moments of raucous cheers, Green returned to the stage with his keyboard / guitarist, Matt Kelly. The pair shared a sneaky drink from a flask before launching into a special rendition of Comin’ Home, a song Green says he now associates with returning to Australia, which he cleverly morphed into an acoustic version of Alexisonfire’s 2006 track This Could Be Anywhere In The World. This nostalgic singalong was followed with another clear crowd favourite and undisputed lovesong, The Girl. As the full band returned to the stage, Green introduced 2015 track Lover Come Back as “A song about fucking up”. Sleeping Sickness, taken from 2008’s ‘Bring Me Your Love’ rounded out the ‘encore’ with the crowd taking the lead on the second verse. It was clear that Green and his band were enjoying the last on-stage moments of this tour, before leading the audience through the powerful and bittersweet refrain, “Someone come and save my life”, knowing that for at least one person in the room, these songs may have done just that.
Dallas Green is undeniably a skilful crafter of songs, and this set delivered an extensive back-catalogue of tender and introspective alt-country ballads and singalongs, which starkly yet poignantly contrast the post-hardcore stylings of Alexisonfire. Green’s performance was complemented by the gifted group of musicians behind him: Matthew Kelly on Keys / Guitars, Erik Nielsen on Bass, John Sponarski on Lead Guitar and Leon Power on Drums; all presenting as much more than a touring outfit, with their musical chemistry evident through their joyful on-stage interaction. City and Colour did not disappoint – the songs were beautifully (and meticulously) put together allowing Green’s vocals to effortlessly reach the soaring and emotive highs and lows his songs speak of, leaving the sold-out crowd with an inexplicable feeling of happiness, love and optimism as they spilled out into the warm Fortitude Valley night.
Connect with CITY AND COLOUR
Connect with DOOMS CHILDREN
With thanks to Frontier Touring