If you nailed Sam Roberts‘ feet to the floor the man would not be able to sing. The music he struggles to get out, the music he physically and emotionally shares with the audience, is as intrinsically a part of him as breathing… stifle his movement while putting it forth, and you would cut off the flow of sound emanating from his being.
Within minutes, you find yourself also unable to stand still – encouraged by Roberts’ frequent hand gestures to get up out of your seat, and his infectious smile and obvious enjoyment of seeing the audience react to the songs, it’s a full show come and gone, and you’re still standing up dancing, and wanting more. Such was the recent Sam Roberts Band show at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
Booked as an all ages show, it had a completely different vibe than most ‘club’ shows. First off, all ages really was just that; from the 10 yr old girl in the very front row (who Roberts went to stand in front of and smile at frequently) to people of grandparently age (two of whom were bassist James Halls own Grandparents), the energy in the room was stronger, friendlier, and had more of a sense of fun than that of audiences fueled by excessive alcohol.
Roberts was in top form; his voice was strong and melodic and his playing superb. As he carried the audience from song to song, his facial expressions often mirror the lyrics he was singing. Intense and brooding on songs such as With a Bullet, Graveyard Shift, and Where Have all the Good People Gone. Smiling as he belts out Bridge to Nowhere, Oh Maria, and (my favorite) Without a Map, all the while the body never stops moving. The band too were spot on.
For many years people referred to the band as ‘Sam Roberts’ – and as with many bands who’s front men are mesmerizing and electrifying, one might tend to forget that the band encompasses 4 more members! With their new cd out, ‘Collider’, Sam Roberts Band (and Sam Roberts the man) are very adamant about giving the other four fellows some credit and recognition. And with good reason. Drummer Josh Trager, keyboard player Eric Fares, guitarist Dave ‘Nuge’ Nugent, and bassist James Hall are all fantastic musicians in their own right. Eric and Dave also sing background vocals, filling out Sam’s voice to add depth to a particular song or chorus. Filling out the band on this tour is Sax player Mathew Bauder from New York (Last Crusade, Let it In, Graveyard Shift).
The show was just the right length and yet too short – 90+ minutes with Sam Roberts Band is like a workout for us and a marathon for the band. Roberts gives just as much effort on the last song as the first and so do the band. Nuge especially, puts his entire body into the songs, and when Fares isn’t playing keyboards for a particular song, he’s using tambourine or some hand held percussion instrument to add to the overall effect. Even with a still healing hand, James Hall puts his heart and soul into the bass, and Trager keeps them all going with a steady back beat.
After dealing out the instantly recognizable hits (Detroit 67, Hard Road, Kids Don’t Know, Brother Down) mixed in with a good many new Collider songs (thank you!) the band came back for a three song encore, culminating in a 12 minute rendition of Mind Flood. Roberts has often joked that this song has no time limit and can run from 9-20 minutes. Nuge and Hall were almost on the floor by the end of this song from sheer effort, and Roberts was just about shaking from the energy expended but, he was smiling from ear to ear, and stayed on stage long enough to shake hands with about 50 people who quickly came up front have that chance.
Sam posted the next day on the band’s Facebook page: “Thanks Kelowna for stoking the fire at the heart of the Collider tour … you brought the fever friends. Til we meet again. SR” – you can only stoke the fire once the embers have been lit! Thank you Sam Roberts Band for the embers and for fanning the flame!
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