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CONCERT REVIEW: Colin James & The Little Big Band swing in for a 2-night party

Colin James & the Little Big Band at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Last weekend Colin James & The Little Big Band celebrated 30 years of making music with a two-night party at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom.

Where else?

The second-floor hall on Granville Mall was the perfect venue for back-to-back concerts (Feb. 2-3) that packed in people who probably remember the 1993 debut album of mostly jump-blues covers (Roy Brown’s “Cadillac Baby” and “Surely (I Love You)” most notable).

There was no opening band, just guitar-playing ace James and his crew of veteran players on rhythm guitar, drums, bass and horns. I didn’t catch their names, but the guys are no newbies.

“We’ve got 30 songs over two sets,” James noted early in Friday’s show, during a night full of songs by Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles and other swingin’ legends who made feet shuffle and butts wiggle.

Setlist for Colin James & the Little Big Band at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. (Photo:

I heard some people in the crowd wanting to hear “Five Long Years” and “Voodoo Thing,” but those pop-rock hits weren’t played.

Instead, James and his band stayed true to their mid-1990s music that helped trigger a swing-dance revival on the West Coast that decade. Truth is, it would have been fun to hear reworked versions of, say, “Why’d You Lie” or even “Chicks ‘n’ Cars,” but it didn’t happen.

The Little Big Band songs sure jump along and entertain, but tend to bleed into one another after a long night. You know that feeling at an AC/DC concert where all the songs start to sound the same? Same.

I would have expected James and band to go on a cross-Canada tour this month, with the two Commodore dates serving as a launching pad, but, according to coming concerts posted on his website, that’s not the case.

If travel is your thing, consider a little trip through France with James this coming October. His website shares news about how people can join him on an exclusive eight-day river cruise in France aboard the luxurious Amacello” with stops in Arles, Avignon, Viviers, Lyon, Mâcon, Tournus, Chalon Sur Saône and Dijon. The Colin James Blues Trio will play two “intimate performances,” do a meet-and-greet, songwriters’ circle and fundraising dinner in support of Hospice PEI. For prices and availability check

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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