In the days leading up to City and Colour's Saturday night concert at the MTS Centre, one question kept popping up.
Is City and Colour big enough to play the MTS Centre?
Wasn't it just a year ago that the Dallas Green-led outfit was one artist among many at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, people asked. And to add to any doubt, another Folk Fest favourite, Neko Case, was playing a theatre show just up the street.
Well, it only took a couple of songs, Harder Than Stone and The Lonely Life, from his latest album, 2013's The Hurry and the Harm, and the roars of approval from the 5,000 in attendance to answer all the questions and silence all the doubters.
Green, the mastermind behind the City and Colour concept, had the arena crowd in the palm of his hand. They were with him when he was performing with his four-piece backing band, which added the necessary oomph to his earnest-sounding voice, and they were most definitely with him when he was all by himself on the stage, armed only with his acoustic guitar, his courage and his sex appeal.
During the acoustic set, the crowd sang along with Green during 2005 hit Save Your Scissors. The spontaneous interaction gave Green the encouragement to ask the audience for a section-by-section singalong during What Makes a Man? — it's a stage strategy that is more often seen at Birds Hill Park instead of Portage Avenue, but who says you can't take the Folk Fest into an arena?
The acoustic set wound up with Comin' Home, its hopeful lyrics pairing well with Green's voice.
One other addition to City and Colour's arsenal also kicked up the concert a few notches compared to the 2013 Folk Fest appearance. The laser lighting and fog lamps were on full heavy metal mode, cranked to 11, and added some effective arena-rock sizzle to City and Colour's steak.
A four-song encore included two more tracks from The Hurry and the Harm, Two Coins and Death's Song. The latter was the evening's final number, providing the crowd one last chance to howl along with Green.
Saturday night's opening act, Montreal's Half Moon Run, played an energetic and percussive half-hour set that at times included three drummers, two of whom also played keyboards. It's not every concert that a percussionist would hit the tom-toms with one hand and lay down a synth fill with the other, but that's what one drummer for Half Moon Run does, and it was something to see, and hear.