Written and photos taken by Tim Pearsall of LimestoneLive.com
Wednesday night The Grand Theatre Kingston and part of the Homestead R&B Series hosted one of Canada’s premier modern electric blues artists Colin James with fellow band mate Chris Caddell.
The Grand Theatre was brimming with people and there was excitement buzzing through the air. The crowd was comparing stories and experiences from Colin’s 23 year career, not knowing what to expect in this unique setting. The stage was arranged in a simple, intimate setting. Two chairs separated by a small end table and a standing lamp is all that occupied the stage. It had a warm and inviting “living room” feel to it. Something you would see in a private jam session with close friends.
Starting off the night was Colin’s band mate Chris Caddell. Walking out on the dimly lit stage Chris immediately captured the audience with his acoustic guitar prowess. Showcasing his own material it was apparent that this Belleville Ontario native was one Canada’s most talented singer song writers and an accomplished guitar player. It was captivating to see Chris perform but was way too short. After only a couple songs, Chris’s solo performance was over and he was joined on stage by a special guest, Colin James. The audience roared as Colin walked out grabbing a Mandolin. Colin welcomed everyone and Chris immediately starts in to “From The Wreckage”. A high energy acoustic song with what can be described as having an east coast touch. The chemistry between the two was instant and a sign of what the night will bring.
Colin James takes over at this point and once again welcomes everyone to the show, giving proper accolades to his friend and band mate Chris Caddell who would be staying on stage the rest of the night. I have seen Colin James in concert more than a dozen times, but this was the first time seeing him showcase his multiple hits in an intimate setting. I had my reservations about his “Up Close and Personal” tour but after only a few moments I realized that I was witness to something pretty spectacular. I wouldn’t describe this night as being a straight forward unplugged/acoustic show. Rotating through multiple electric and acoustic guitars the evening had more of a “Heavy Mellow” feel to it. Toned down heavy hits allowed the audience to be more attentive to the skill and excellence behind his guitar playing. Introductions started immediately and a beautiful and haunting song called “Black Eyed Dog” was showcased to the audience, something he joked that scared the hell out of his children when they were younger. With a smile on his face Colin played his first big hit of the night. “Five Long Years” got people cheering. The sound of people singing almost drowned out Colin on stage. The energy was building in the room as Colin played one of the best songs of the night called “National Steel”. A bluegrass rock song that was enhanced on the steel guitar and slide. Between each song Colin would go into details about how each song was created, telling stories of who he has collaborated with and experiences he has had over his award winning career. One of these collaborations that I have always admired is his work with Tom Wilson (Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Lee Harvey Osmond). Colin’s song “Freedom” was co-written by Tom Wilson and was one of my favourites of the night.
Song after song Colin continued to produce his hits in this extraordinary and exclusive setting. In talking with fans after the show I heard multiple people express how amazing it was to see Colin James in this environment and how this was the first time they were able to really pay attention to the lyrics and the true meaning behind each song.