Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Review - Sam Roberts Band (Toronto, ON)

Sam Roberts Band w/ Zeus
Massey Hall
Toronto, ON
Saturday, June 4, 2011

In order to reduce confusion, I'll start off by saying that Sam Roberts Band is not one dude... it's a band (as the name suggests). The group features Sam Roberts on lead vocals and guitar as well as Dave Nugent (guitar), Eric Fares (keys), James Hall (bass), and Josh Trager (drums).

So having said that, fresh off the release of their latest album Collider, Sam Roberts Band came to town this past weekend with two shows at the sold-out Massey Hall in Toronto. I have always considered myself to be a casual fan of the band and unfortunately did not check them out live until this past Saturday, despite them putting on shows in recent years in Mississauga, Brampton, and countless other smaller cities outside of Toronto. Almost as if I was avoiding them.

Leading up to the show I was having difficulty finding someone to use the extra ticket we had (row 8, floor) and was becoming skeptical about how the show itself would turn out. Fortunately, I am pleased to say they played a solid set and had the crowd in a frenzy. Plenty of sing-along moments (primarily on older hits like Good People and Eileen) and other opportunities to loosen up. Alot of the night for me was remembering just how many songs of theirs I enjoy and that I need to revisit their discography to further refresh my memory. I need to better familiarize myself with the new album, but the songs played from there still went over well and provided some incentive for me to get around to it.

Couple funny highlights include the set-closing combo of Brother Down and Them Kids where ironically during the latter, some of us on the floor (in my section anyways) were bobbing our heads instead of actually dancing, whoops! Spotted a guy on the stage-right gallery during this song trying to inspire the audience who was equally as reserved as us floor folk, funny stuff. The former was definitely a fun track though, one that I had not really heard in a while too. I'm going to use the defense that everybody was worn out by the time the closer started (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!).

The encore was actually what sealed the deal for me that I will definitely be needing to check them out again (and again). Starting off with I Feel You and Uprising, they broke out the extremely trippy and jam-inspiring track Mind Flood, a song that I personally had not heard before. One friend that I was with had seen them seven times and afterwards told me that she had not seen that song live before, and I'll tell you this, it's a hell of a set-closer. For starters I didn't expect a huge jam at this show and I also didn't predict it would rival the first time I heard Warsaw by Them Crooked Vultures live. As the show concluded, members of the band (including Sam himself) made a strong effort to shake hands and interact with the crowd on the floor. I was in the 8th row and managed to shake hands with him, so I thought that was pretty cool and not usually what I get at shows; total class-act.

With the show having a great deal of positive energy and a ton of upbeat tracks, one couldn't help but enjoy themselves because of it. Upon playing a nice balance of familiar songs, new material, and some rare tracks, I can't help but recommend checking them out the next time they're in town (Niagara on the Lake June 18th, Buffalo September 2nd, Kee to Bala September 3rd and 4th). The band came on at roughly 9:05 (earlier than the scheduled 9:15) and finished up around 10:50 which made for a satisfying night.

The opener for the weekend was a band called Zeus who also put on a solid set. Any band that can switch instruments multiple times during a gig gains points with me! This was my first time hearing them and I will certainly be checking out their studio material when I get the opportunity; also keeping an eye open for when they return to the GTA (September 9th at Yonge-Dundas Square).

The Last Crusade
Streets of Heaven (Promises, Promises)
Fixed To Ruin
Where Have All the Good People Gone?
Let It In
Taj Mahal
Up Sister
Dead End
Hard Road
Words and Fire
Detroit '67
Graveyard Shift
Don't Walk Away Eileen
Without a Map
Bridge to Nowhere
Brother Down
Them Kids

I Feel You
Uprising Down Under
Mind Flood

Album Breakdown:
Collider: 6
Love at the End of the World: 5
We Were Born in a Flame: 5
Chemical City: 3
+ "Brother Down" (difficult to categorize)

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