Singer/songwriter/guitarist extraordinaire Colin James gave a legion of loyal fans exactly what they were clamoring for Wednesday night at the Memorial Centre. Loads of smashing new tunes from his latest disc Fifteen plus a mesmerizing trip down through the years via hit after hit from his repertoire of finely-crafted classics.
Kicking off the night with Saviour from 1995’s Bad Habits CD, James immediately delved into several offerings from Fifteen which was released earlier this year, from the rollicking Sweets Gone Sour and Fool For You to I Need You Bad.
James did an exemplary job of balancing older tunes with the newer material. Next to numbers like Fifteen’s Jealous Guy to the title track from 2005’s Limelight. Everything rolled together and the genres shifted seamlessly through the night from modern rock/blues, country/folk and old-style blues to polished pop and big band. Other gems included the simmering, plaintive tones of Why’d You Lie, Voodoo Thing from his self-titled 1998 debut, the stellar Freedom and the flat-out scorcher Just Came Back. And Keep On Loving Me Baby was delivered with all the fire the towering masterpiece demands.
When James first hit the scene a quarter century ago, he became an instant rock guitar hero, mentored by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Since then, he has topped the charts as a pop vocalist, recorded acclaimed blues discs and led the swing revival with his Little Big Band. Mary Anne, from the Little Big Band II CD, which nicely showcased the sensibilities of this side of James’ superb musicianship as well.
By the time he was 13, he was making something of a name for himself as a gifted mandolin player as well.
James, originally from Regina, left home at 16 and moved to Winnipeg after it became starkly obvious there was no other path for him to take. After a brief stint with The Hoodoo Men back in the early 1980s, his debut was released in 1988 and an enormously successful career was born.
All this tremendous experience has fueled the electric performer that James is today. He hit the stage running and didn’t let up for a second – no wonder he’s had an amazing and lengthy career which shows no signs of slowing. Vocally he was spot on and his rapport with the audience was comfortable and relaxed. Ultimately, he was having as great a time onstage with his exceptional band as we, the audience were having just taking it all in.