Standing in line at will-call to get my ticket and out of the blue a fellow also waiting says, ‘love your boots’ (they’re army style lace up black ankle boots).. I thank him and continue waiting.. ”my friends say this Sam Roberts guy is good, is he?” he asks me motioning to his two friends in line with him.
Is Sam Roberts good?
I smile and try to decide how to best answer that. “Yes. Sam Roberts Band is good. You’ll definitely recognize some songs from the radio, and go, ah! thats who that is,” I say.
“I only listen to CBC Radio,” he says, smiling.
“Even better!” I tell him. (Sam Roberts Band is one of the few mainstream rock bands that also gets huge air play on CBC Canada) “You’ll definitely be a fan when you leave tonight.” .. and this is how the evening starts!
The band walks out onto the darkened stage right on time, and jumps into the energetic Shapeshifters off their newest album, Lo-Fantasy and the crowd knows in an instant we have to keep up or get left behind! Already people up front are singing with the band word for word and its encouraging to hear. Fixed to Ruin is next and the older more familiar tune gets the remaining audience reacting with the music and the show just snowballs from there.. Angola sees Dave ‘Nuge’ Nugent dancing like there’s no tomorrow, and Human Heat blows the lid off the venue, with a good solid 1/3 of the audience singing and pogo-ing to the pounding bass and drums (courtesy of James Hall and Josh Trager respectively).
Roberts takes a short breather to say ‘hello Kelowna!’ as guitars are swapped, and we slow down a little to the familiar strains of ‘been dying since the day I was born’ with Hard Road up next and everyone is singing (and standing up by this point).. one of my favourite SRB songs for sure, “stay true to your friends ’cause they’ll save you in the end…. ’cause no road ain’t a hard road to travel on.”
Love at the End of the World brings a little vintage Sam Roberts Band to the mix, and continuing the ‘love’ with The Hands of Love off Lo-Fantasy and suddenly the unobtruse video screen behind the band jumps into light, with a kaleidoscope of trippy images and colours which fit the song’s ethereal quality to a T.
Let It In with sax solo from Chet Dokas, and the heavy instantly recognizable guitar riff of I Feel You complete the psychadelic trio and I have the same deja vu that bassist James Hall tells me later he had in this instant – a flashback to the Sam Roberts Band show in this same venue a couple of years ago when the audience steeped the band in a haze of marijuana smoke! Tonight however, is a different crowd, and everyone is supremely into dancing and singing with the band rather than retreating into their own inner groove.
The lady beside me and I sing our hearts out to the warm, rounded masterpiece that is Without a Map, much to the amusement of guitar Dave Nugent standing right above us, and I immeasurably enjoy watching Sam handle his guitar like its just part of his own being, as he sways from side to side to the tune he and the band have created.
Metal Skin has me unable to stand still, and I take a quick peek at the crowd behind me to see nearly 800 people on their feet and its glorious. Eric Fares gets to shine on keyboard with the opening strains of Detroit 67, and we all fist pump to the chorus of Don’t Walk Away Eileen. Bridge to Nowhere, and Chasing the Light bring the set to a conclusion and I suddenly have an ah-ha moment during the latter. I’ve never really ‘connected’ with this song, but tonight it suddenly speaks to me while watching Roberts sing, “It’s alright, it’s alright if you go chasing the light, Just remember the way back baby… Wherever we go, remember the way home…” Visual images of a band getting on the bus about to embark on tour for weeks, months – chasing the spotlight.. just remember the way home and suddenly it seems like a love song to me.
Smiles, waves, and the band heads off stage into the darkness.. but we all know they’re coming back! Much whistling, foot stomping and cat calling and they do indeed return rounding out the set with We’re All In This Together (the band’s first Lo-Fantasy smash single), and a song I have never heard live – Uprising Down Under.. another Roberts love song that has a melancholy bittersweetness to it, and I watch Roberts in the near-dark and he’s hunched over, intent, intense.. you can read the feelings on his face as he puts every bit of himself into this song.
Brother Down ended the show and I love this song being the last one, as it allows Roberts to ditch the guitar, and dance around the stage and around his band mates as he sings his heart out… and often, including tonight, he’ll cosy up to the front of the stage, and shake hands with as many of us in the audience as he possibly can.. Roberts wants to touch his audience and just recently has begun to do that literally as well as figuratively… and laughing at us not allowing him to ‘escape’, he was the last off the stage long after the last strains of the music ended!
for images of this show, visit this Gallery!
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