Kathleen Edwards and City and Colour at The OrpheumPhotos by Alex Ramon
The great thing about the Junos is not the actual award ceremony itself, but the fact that so many talented Canadian musicians make that long trek in to one specific town. As some of you know, this year the Juno Awards were held right here in Vancouver, which brought out the beautiful and elegant Kathleen Edwards as well as the heartthrob Dallas Green from City and Colour. Both were part of the Juno Awards, with Kathleen accompanying Canada’s legendary rock star Bryan Adams and Dallas playing with The Tragically Hip’s Gordon Downie. But even before any of that happened, I had the great opportunity of catching two of Canada’s finest musicians play in the most beautiful venue known to man (and woman…). Their show wasn’t actually part of the Juno festivities, but it might as well have been and it’s no surprise that the show sold out. Those who were lucky enough to attend had one of the most relaxing sets I’ve seen in a while, in a venue that is utterly breathtaking. It may have been the comfy seats, but I’m pretty sure it was the music.
This Canadian singer-songwriter has turned heads all around the world. Kathleen was born in Ottawa, but with her parents being diplomats, she spent a portion of her youthful life overseas in Korea and Switzerland. This, however, did not stop her from taking up classical violin. Music was introduced to her at an early age, but instead of staying with her classical roots, she put aside Mozart and Chopin and started listening to some more contemporary artists like Bob Dylan and Canada’s own Neil Young.
After high school, instead of attending college, she opted to hone her musical craft by playing at local bars to mould her own sound. In 1999, Edwards recorded a six-song EP titled “Building 55” which launced her on a tour across Canada the following year. With inspiration floating in the air on tour, she composed many songs that would later be a part of her 2003 debut release titled “Failure.” This album got the recognition from critics around the world, including Rolling Stone, Blender, and The New York Times.
With this much success at an early age, she was eager to continue with her musical career and didn’t slow down one bit. In 2005, Edwards released “Back To Me,” which garnered her prestigious Juno nominations as well as a musical snippet in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown. Not only that, she played on Letterman, as well as opening up for likes of Willie Nelson, Aimee Mann, My Morning Jacket, John Mayer and Bryan Adams.
She was on a whirlwind adventure and to gain some more perspective, she took a step back from the limelight. But in 2008 she came back with her third studio album “Asking For Flowers” and she sure hasn’t lost any steam.
As soon as she stepped on stage at The Orpheum, the crowd went nuts. If you’ve never been to this venue, it’s a sight for sore eyes. Any musician who steps foot on this stage is graced with incredible lighting, perfect acoustics, and an attentive crowd. Kathleen noted on many occasions during her set about how honoured she was to play in such a beautiful venue. The only bad thing, coming from a writer with a note pad, is that there wasn’t enough lighting for me to take notes (I had to pull out my trusty cell phone as a source of light, and it was needless to say I felt a little out of place).
Kathleen wasn’t alone on this ginourmous stage, as she was accompanied by her talented husband Colin Cripps on guitar (Johnny Cash’s guitar to be exact). It’s very interesting to watch the dynamic of a band, especially if they’re husband and wife. Just like The Submarines, Kathleen and Colin played off each other with ease. They had some of the most beautiful harmonies I’ve heard in a long time, and made me wish I had a wife to make music with (of course this hypothetical wife would do all the writing and singing, while I sit on a chair and tap my fingers on the table in drum like fashion). There was a point when Kathleen teased the audience about waking up next to Dallas Green every morning on tour, but I’m sure Colin is secure enough with his manhood to brush that comment off.
Humour is always an added bonus when attending live shows. Some bands are more in tune with the audience, and Kathleen was pitch perfect. She’s an amazing story teller, and even with a sold out venue, it was still a very intimate set. She would talk about personal issues, about jogging and having her legs become too muscular, about meeting Colin in her pyjamas, and about smoking weed back in high school. It’s very refreshing to have a musician not only play music, but have an actual conversation with the crowd.
The highlight of her set had to be her song “I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory,” a song about hockey. There’s only one thing I love more than music, hockey. So with the two combined, you can see why I enjoyed this so much. On a side note, Kathleen played a very impressive game at The Juno Cup the next night where she was literally on the ice (either on her skates or on her butt) for her first period goal.
Dallas Green is a very interesting musician to say the least. His other band, Alexisonfire, is a post-hardcore scream-o group that I’m not too sure what to make of. Sometimes I like them, other times I don’t. But there is no denying that Dallas is a talented soul.
City and Colour, named after the aforementioned Dallas Green (get it… City… Colour…), is his not so side-project that has garnered him much attention and fame. The list goes on about all the awards he’s won, but I won’t bore you with it (if you must know, then just google it). He started this band essentially when he was 14, writing songs that would cheer him up during depressing moments in his life. His first album “Sometimes” was released in 2005 and subsequently he went on a cross Canada tour with just his guitar. Fans were very receptive of his work and in 2008 he released his second album “Bring Me Your Love.” Winning Juno after Juno, there is no end in sight for this talented singer-songwriter.
The set started with Dallas in the shadows. Strange I know, but it was the best way to kick off a special night by profiling his guitar player Haris Cehajic who played an amazing acoustic version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The crowd sang every word, showing everyone that Vancouver is definitely not a “no-fun-city.”
With their vocal chords all warmed up, the fans in attendance screamed incredibly loud during Dallas’s entrance. I was rather impressed with the loud ovation, considering Mr. Green hadn’t even played a single note on his guitar yet. I guess he has that affect on teenage girls. He has the bad boy image with the manners of a gentlemen and the voice of an angel, which is why I’m guessing those girls beside me were screaming “I love you Dallas!” (one day Ron… one day…).
Going into the show, I expected a nice laid back atmosphere but to be honest, there was a lot more rock then I had expected. With his hardcore background, it’s no surprise that when he did rock out with his metaphorical cock out, there was an amazing light show shining in the backdrop. Dallas displayed his amazing guitar skills, providing thoughtful and melodic guitar riffs that would bewilder any musician.
There were of course folk-like moments throughout his set, such as the harmonica interludes in “Against The Grain,” and I was rather impressed by his sweet, tender, yet powerful voice. He even played a new song about the world ending (I would tell you the name, but he doesn’t even have one for it yet… that’s how new it is!).
Green even brought his family out to Vancouver, most likely because of the Junos, but it was no doubt a special moment for them to witness Dallas play an amazing set. The sweetest moment was when he dedicated “The Girl” to his wife, Leah Miller. He even stopped halfway through his intro to check if his mom was crying, and seeing that she wasn’t, he continued with the entire song. All in all, the night was a success and everyone in the audience left with a smile on their faces, knowing that they witnessed a Juno award winning artist leave his heart on that stage.