Under Friday night’s balmy sky and glowing near-supermoon (the extra-large heavenly body will make its official appearance tonight), thousands converged for a stellar lineup of four bands with alternating U.S. and Canadian provenance. Despite the storied effects of lunar pull, the night remained a mellow affair – onstage and off.
Buffalo Outer Harbor Concert Series showcased City and Colour (note the added Canadian U), the creative meanderings of Canadian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dallas Green and his touring band, in the headlining position. Also on the international bill were California-based Young the Giant, Tokyo Police Club from Canada, and openers Clear Plastic Masks hailing from deepest Brooklyn but with ties to Tennessee.
Greeting the enthusiastic throng before him with “We’re City and Colour, thanks so much for coming,” as if an introduction was necessary, the band began its 90-minute set with contemplative “Of Space and Time.” The song, from “The Hurry And The Harm,” a 2013 release, is a gliding lyrical ballad; slide guitar and lilting guitar parts made it all more sweet country.
During an extended version of mournful “Comin’ Home,” a classic missing-my-love song with the lyrics “I’ve driven down the 90, hell, I’ve seen America’s best/ I’ve been through the Rockies, well, I’ve seen Saskatoon/ I’ve driven down the Highway 1, just hopin’ that I’d see you soon,” fireworks shot up in the east. Hundreds of scared seagulls headed toward the lake, flying over the venue, a lovely sight. The band was on to perhaps Green’s best-known composition to date, “Save Your Scissors,” before the sobering “Body in a Box” and band introductions midway through the set.
The sun had set behind the stage and the grounds were in near-dark, so the inclusion of “We Found Each Other in the Dark” was appropriate and lovely. “This song is about how everything is going to be fine, we’re gonna live,” Green said.
The band ended with “Sorrowing Man,” (City and Colour may hold the rock record for usage of the word sorrow), exiting the stage with flashes of lights, guitar crescendos, and reverb. Green returned solo before his four bandmates returned for a trio of encore tunes (“The Girl,” “Two Coins” and “Death’s Song”) – rich, sad and hopeful.
Young the Giant, with shining star power, played the third slot of this stellar lineup. Sameer Gadhia, lead vocalist and guitarist, announced, “Our guitarist broke his arm, so our tour manager is filling in for him … give it up for Stu!” Stu Berk and his charges romped through an incredible 13-song set; the band seemed up for another hour of music.
Gadhia plays tambourine with more authority and a sense of joy, perfect for inclusion in their dance-friendly songs. “Sometimes you just need more tambourine,” the singer shouted after a rollicking “Eros,” with a dueling-guitars ending.
“Here’s another new song, it’s called ‘Firelight,’ ” Gadhia said of the lush lullaby. A father of a nearby family of four with two young children told his wife that they should download the song to put their kids to bed. The family was obviously there for the headliners; they had purchased a City and Colour pendant and kept track of it vigilantly throughout the night.
The four men of Tokyo Police Club came out kicking, opening with a lovely rendition of “Argentina (Parts I, II, III),” a mini rock opera unto itself.
They would check in with their fans occasionally, lead vocalist and bassist David Monks asking “You doin’ OK right now?” as if the response would be anything but a hearty affirmative.
Monks, during the introduction for “Nature of the Experiment,” riffed on the relationship between Toronto (“we’re a little band from Toronto”) and Buffalo: “You’re our neighbors south of the border, without the sombreros,” to glowing hollers. Set highlights included dance-worthy “Favourite Colour” and a very gorgeous version of “Bambi,” whispers of reggae guitars making it summer-appropriate.
Clear Plastic Masks began the celebratory night, inspiring some dancing before the stage. Lead singer Andrew Katz pointed to the not-yet-capacity crowd ringing the stage, pointing out those who caught his eye. “This one, mwah, and this one, mwah. And you, dude, kisses to you!” The blues-infused quartet played songs of urban poetry reminiscent of late, great Lou Reed and Velvet Underground. Riffing on the party vibe, Katz praised the bill’s “rad bands and … the reasonably priced beer.”