February 2006

Colin James
February 4, 2006Massey HallToronto
Stellar Debut Performance at Massey
by Sue Bullas with photo by Roger Humbert
Colin James always gives a great performance. Even on this dreary Saturday night I’m anxious to get to the show. Colin reaches out to his audience in a way most contemporary performers don’t.

While the roadies set up, you can see the band at the stage door eager for the signal to go on. They weren’t the only ones. The first song “Better Way to Heaven” went off like a firecracker, releasing nervous energy and getting on with the gospel soul sound Colin James does like no one else.

Colin James

It’s been too long a wait for Colin James and the band to debut at Massey Hall, but they are impressive. Backing him up are Colin Linden (guitar), Chris Northey (guitar), Reggie McBride (bass), Jim Kelter (drums), Steve Hillman (Sax), Terry Townson (horn), John Whynot (B3 organ) and a special guest appearance by Toronto legend Richard Bell on organ and keyboard. A great crew.

My favourite song of the night was a rousing rendition of “If You Need Me” that Colin dedicated to the memory of Wilson Pickett.

Colin told us about a woman in Winnipeg he heard when he was an impressionable 16. She was a 60 year old blues singer who wore a cowboy hat, fancy boots and sang the same phrase over and over but with different phrasing each time. That kind of attention to detail is reflected in his own style, especially in his lyrics where he is at home — comfortable in his own shoes.

We were all caught up, and the ending seemed a bit abrupt, but the encore brought us “Into the Mystic” a cover of the Van Morrison classic. As a Van Morrison fan I had my reservations, but Colin kept it true and made it his own at the same time. He also performed “Freedom” singing a round with the audience and the band. By then we were all willing to give the blues a go.

From the nervous energy that started the show to the audience sing along that ended it we were all in tune together. Colin hasn’t lost his charm, his finesse with a guitar or that combination of pain and hope called soul. In his own words to the Massey audience “I admit I was kind of nervous but proud to walk in here. You guys had a lot to do with that. Thanks.” Stevie Ray would be proud.

Produced by Colin Linden Limelight is Colin James' 10th album, his first for MapleMusic Recordings.

Opening for Colin on this night
The Cowboy Junkies were true to form despite missing Peter Timmins and Alan Anton… As Margo Timmins herself put it “we play songs about heartache and misery depressing audiences around the world”. Her voice will always be one of the sweetest there is and as she covered “The River” she proved this to be true. After 20 years, The Cowboy Junkies have recently played Carnagie Hall at a celebration of Joni Mitchell and her music. Despite the stature and history of Carnagie Hall, Margo says “It might be parochial of me to say, but I like Massey Hall better. It is the intimacy and the fact that many of those same famed people have graced this stage”. Grace is right — with a cup of tea and a vase full of flowers, Junkies graced the Massey hall stage.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Sue Bullas
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
• •
The Live Music Report

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2006