Behind Canadian songwriter Dallas Green and his four-man City and Colour backing crew, the word “beauty” appeared lowercase in stark sans-serif white-on-black throughout the band’s Saturday afternoon set on the Samsung Stage at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. That’s in the eye of the beholder, of course, but the opinion here is that the word might better have been “bland.”
Nothing was objectionable about City and Colour’s hourlong indie-rock set, but nothing was really engaging or inspiring, either. Compared to, say, Catfish & the Bottlemen’s performance on the Honda Stage an hour later, the crowd seemed mostly disinterested. A few were ardent fans who sang along, but the general vibe was low-key, and when Green encouraged fans to sing along to one song, the response was lackadaisical.
That said, the musicians were top-notch — especially guitarist Dante Schwebel, who played this same stage two years ago fronting his own side-project band, Spanish Gold. That group had more compelling songs and a cooler vibe than Schwebel’s main working gig, but he brings great solos and guitar textures to Green’s songs.
Liking City and Colour or not probably comes down mostly to whether you’re a fan of the high-pitched indie-rock vocal style of which Green is a master. If you’re not, then you might think the most interesting thing about him is heart-shaped grenade tattooed to his Adam’s apple, visible on the stage’s big screens when the camera zoomed in for close-ups.
Green was not without his charms when he spoke to the crowd. “Growing up in a small town in Canada, I never thought that I’d be able to say, ‘Up next is LL Cool J,'” he quipped near the end of the set. In the end, perhaps the lukewarm response stemmed from the audience being there mainly for that set, along with those who staked out early stage-front territory for Kendrick Lamar later.