ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 18, 1988
By Steve Newton
The first time yours truly met Colin James was at the Commodore a couple of years ago. I forget who was playing, but I was hanging out in front of the bar with fellow rock scribbler John “Wacky” Mackie, a member of the band L. Kabong, and a few strangers. “Oh, are you Steve from the Georgia Straight?” chirped this young guy next to me, extending a hearty handshake. “I’m Colin James!” I didn’t think much of it at the time, although I had read several glowing reviews about this incredible Stevie Ray Vaughan protege who’d come here from Regina. But if this fellow had told me that in two years he’d pack the Commodore for five straight nights I sure wouldn’t have believed him.
In the last few months of 1988, of course, Colin James has been big news–and deservedly so. The vibrant enthusiasm the prairie-bred blues-rocker displayed on our first meeting has been captured and redoubled in the grooves of an outstanding debut album, produced by such notables as Tom Dowd (Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers), Danny Kortchmar (Keith Richards), and local hit-meister Bob Rock. And with the help of a killer band and a catchy, Yale Hotel-shot video (for “Voodoo Thing”), the 23-year-old kid with the schoolboy face and mean guitar has become the toast of the town. He lived up to all the hype last Friday (November 11) at the second of five consecutive sold-out shows.
The party animals at the front of the stage–a good half of them female–were squeezing in from all directions and the anticipation was infectious when James and his band strolled out and skipped right into the hearty rocker “Chicks ‘N Cars (And the Third World War”). In no time at all the Commodore was turned into a boogie-palace of the first order, and by the time James was into his second song, “Five Long Years”, and Johnny Ferreira was blasting out the tune’s uplifting sax burst, the crowd was one big rockin’ oyster in the palm of James’ hand. The Commodore’s springy dance floor took a serious beating for the next hour-and-a-half as James’ rowdy guitar work was driven along by the equally impressive accompaniment of a crack band that included saxman Ferreira, drummer Darrell Mayes, bassist Dennis Marcenko, and keyboardist Rick Hopkins.
Backstage after the show I bumped into Colin James again, only this time it was me thrusting a hand out in greeting. And today if somebody tried to tell me that Colin James wouldn’t be a world-wide star in two years, I’d have to say, “Get outta town!”