Special contribution by Ron Roxtar
photos Benoit Rousseau
This was Colin James’ twentieth appearance at The Jazz Festival.
Colin came walking on stage to the pounding drumbeat of Hidden Charms from his 1988 debut album and kicked things into high gear. He might have started the show having people think this was just a show of nostalgia but Colin played As the Crow Flies along with five songs from his more recent albums Miles to Go and the latest Open Road.
Colin served up the first big hit of the night with Why’d You Lie. He fed the crowd from every era of his catalog such as Freedom from his 1995 Bad Habits album. The intro came with a joke that the song was definitely not written or has anything to do with the Freedom convoy. He then went into another set of songs from Open Road and Miles To Go. In a career as lengthy and full as Colin’s one might come to think he could just rest on his laurels playing the big hits and maybe a song or two from a recent album. No, Colin did just the opposite concentrating on newer material. He was making it clear he’s got a new product and that it’s worthy to be played and heard. Full kudos to Colin for that.
Colin mentioned a few times throughout the night that he had played so hard that his finger was constantly bleeding. There were plenty of stories about how he was recently on tour with Buddy Guy, when he played Foufones Electrique and seeing Prince watching George Thorogood from behind the stage. Another Montreal connection was that his son has just graduated from Concordia University in business. He spoke about the only time he played with the late great Stevie Ray Vaughn which was in Montreal and can be viewed on youtube.
This led to a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s, Change it. Followed by another cover of Fleetwood Mac’s, Oh Well. Colin was quick to point out the original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green was one of the records he listened to the most growing up. He dug real deep into the blues with a cover of Robert Johnston’s Stones in My Passway which lead to his own big hit Just Came Back.
On a night where Colin was constantly coming to the front stage to solo out his brand of blues-rock one other band member seemed to steal the spotlight more than once. That was bassist Steve Marriner whose harmonica playing always brought raucous applause.
With the crowd on their feet Colin and the band came back for a two-song encore of Into the Mystic and Leave This House. The crowd screamed for more and the band returned the applause with the ballad That’s Why I’m Crying. Five Long Years was the only hit omitted by James on this night.
In an era where radio and Billboard charts are dominated by teen pop, rap and hip-hop it was so inspiring to know we still have great real music being played by real musicians.