There’s something about seeing Sam Roberts live that is indefineable; like trying to catch lightning in a bottle or describe the wind when you can’t see it, only feel it. I’ve never been disappointed with a Sam Roberts Band performance- entranced, mesmerized, entertained, delighted, worn out, wanting more- but never ever disappointed. Last nights performance at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park is no exception.
Starting the set with I Feel You (from their new album, Collider), the band comes on at twilight, which affords me just enough light to finally snap a few clear pictures of Sam (the man never stops moving!) Receiving postive feedback the band ramps up the energy for Without a Bullet, and Fixed to Ruin, two old favorites. Sam addresses the audience mentioning what we are all thinking – how lucky we are that the forecasted rain has held off and that we have a perfect evening for an outdoor show. Despite the venue’s best attempts to dry out the oversaturated grass with thickly layered sawdust, the ground underfoot quickly turns back into mud as the 1000+ fans of all ages sway and dance to the tunes.
Let it In (the first radio single from the new album), and one of my favorites Lions of the Kalahari has fans singing along with the band. As the band jumps into Graveyard Shift (also one of my favorites off the new album) something very … odd.. happens. One of the trees to the far left of the grounds, begins to sway and move almost in time to the music! Turns out two fans have scaled an evergreen tree outside the fence line, and have perched themselves nearly 40 feet up in the air! The movement is them trying to push branches out of the way to snap photos! Now THATS dedication 🙂
Hard Road and Up Sister both have the bulk of the crowd joining in on the choruses and not surprise there. Then Sam launches into a softer song – Partition Blues (which is fast becoming another fav of mine). He tells the audience the title of the song after playing it… but judging by how many people around me in the audience are singing along (and knew ALL the words) he needn’t have worried about the fans not knowing the new stuff! It’s amazing to see this happen all night actually -large pockets of fans singing the lyrics to the new songs – amazing to me because it means they have listened to the new songs often enough (in the 2 weeks since release date) to memorize most of the words!
Streets of Heaven (Promises, Promises) and The Band vs The World reinforce for me how tight the band was/is. I’ve seen Sam Roberts Band a few times over the last 4 yrs and they’ve been amazing – but previously my eye has always been on Sam as a ‘front man’. Tonight seems different – with the album being labelled Sam Roberts Band, I truly notice the band for the first time. Guitarist Dave Nugent is dancing up a storm and although his rhythm is very different than the fluid unconscious movements of Sam, he has his own style that works and gets the audience into the music. Drummer Josh Trager is a natural, and bangs out the beat seemingly without breaking a sweat – I love watching drummers who make it look effortless. Bassist James Hall is respendent in a self -made charm necklace and seems the epitome of a bass player – laid back, into the groove and just having fun with it. I notice too that keyboard player Eric Fares also played harmonica and tambourine on a few songs – something I’ve never noticed before… they truly are Sam Roberts Band, not Sam Roberts’ Band.
Watching the audience during Where Have All The Good People Gone is electrifying. Sam commands the audience without having to ask for any sort of response.. he puts his hand in the air to fist pump, the audience follows en masse – not just the people down front, but as I look around, that infectious desire to be part of the experience extends nearly to the back row of the park. This is not something I’ve seen with other bands.. and I realise it has everything to do with respect and a two way flow of energy! Sam is intense – he smiles frequently, but he’s intense in body language, in the force of his vocals, in how he bangs on the guitar, how he can’t stand still if there is a beat, and in how he pushes his energy into the crowd, as if trying to give it over to us – ALL of it. He’s also not the ‘rock star’, so no matter if you are the uber fan down front, or the casual fan with young kids, or are middle aged and wanting space closer to the back – Sam and the band play to everyone equally… and that draws everyone into the experience.
Just before starting Without a Map, Sam addresses the audience again, telling us that this song is “dedicated to my friend Erik, I’m so glad he was able to come to the show tonight.” Turns out Erik is a fan who had to have emergency brain surgery and Sam ended up calling him in the hospital to find out how he was doing – tonight is Erik’s first day out of the house since leaving the hospital, Without a Map is his favorite new song, and he met Sam and the Band before the show. This is what makes this band so special!
The band sings many more songs, including: Brother Down, The Last Crusade (new), Love at the End of the World, and during the first encore – Detroit 67, Don’t Walk Away Eileen, Uprising, and Them Kids. At this point, the venue starts playing the ‘house’ music and many people begin to leave, but the band has something up their collective sleeves! Blowing their curfew by 10 minutes, they come back for a second encore causing many to ignore the mud underfoot and run back to their choice spots, just in time to hear Tractor Beam Blues (new), and the traditional ending song, Mindflood – which runs much longer than the album version and is the perfect ending to an amazing night!
Find my review of SRB Colider cd HERE
Check out Sam Roberts Band on CFox Radio’s Uninvited Guest series, Without A Map
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