Betrayed by a throat virus a month ago, blues rocker Colin James cancelled a gig at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
His voice was healthy and strong Wednesday night as he rang off a wonderful 23-song show before 850 enthusiastic music lovers.
The 52-year-old, born in Regina as Colin James Munn, was all business. He used six different guitars, swigged a bottle of water early on and barely took a breath in between a mix of new recordings and fan-favourites. He did complain about the rain in Vancouver but didn’t share any in-depth stories about his 23-year career.
Dressed in a dark polka-dot long-sleeved shirt with a black vest, blue jeans and black zippered/buckled boots, James sounded just as sweet as he did some 25 years ago the last time I caught him perform at the Kelowna Boardwalk.
“Man, it ‘s good to be here,” said the ever-smiling James, accompanied by six ultra-talented back-up band members. “It took us a little longer to get here, but here we are.”
Harmonica magician Steve Marriner of Ottawa and styling keyboardist Jesse O’Brien of Hamilton were the best supporting players behind the fit and slender James, who recorded a bluesy album entitled Blue Highway last year in Vancouver.
The radio fans of James didn’t know his first seven ditties which included Fourty-Four, Big Road Blues, Freedom and Big Bad Whiskey, but they certainly came to life when he began belting out Why’d You Lie To Me, a Morgan Davis cover he killed.
For song No. 13, a roadie handed James an acoustic guitar. He and Marriner nailed Ridin’ In the Moonlight with the rest of band backstage for a brief break.
The predominately 50-something crowd ramped their cheers for Into The Night, a Van Morrison cover that James exudes so wonderfully.
He had the fans buzzing on his monster hit Just Came Back and then had a dozen people dancing up front when he performed I Want You to Love Me Baby.
“Sorry again we had to cancel, but I’m kind of glad because we were beat up,” laughed James, who jumpstarted a three-song encore with Somebody Have Mercy before bringing the house down with top-10 singles Five Long Years and Voodoo Thing.
James got his break opening for Stevie Ray Vaughan in Regina in 1984. When the scheduled backup act didn’t show, he only had a few hours’ notice to put together a set of blues standards with members from the local Regina band Flying Colours. Vaughan invited Colin to perform with him during the encore, and then join his tour as a permanent opening act. Vaughan suggested the stage name Munn.
After learning the pennywhistle and mandolin, James quit school and worked with a succession of bands, among them, the Hoo Doo Men.
When he was 19, he moved to Vancouver and joined the Night Shades. About two years later, performing under his changed name to Colin James and was lucky enough to be noticed by the folks at Virgin Records, who signed him.