Published Feb 16, 2014Over the past decade, Montreal's Sam Roberts has become a mainstay in the Canadian music scene, and his brand of stadium-friendly rock has become the accompaniment to many a sporting event. His touring venues seem to get larger and larger each time he and his crew release a new record, but despite the arena rock sound of freshly released LP Lo-Fantasy, the Sam Roberts Band chose the intimate Lion D'Or to host their album launch party, allowing a select group of friends, family and hometown fans to enjoy the new music in a setting much smaller than the ones Roberts and company have been playing for the last few years. This sense of unity has been present in most of Roberts' recent work; Lo-Fantasy is the second album released under the name of Sam Roberts Band, and the album's lead single "We're All In This Together" all but spells it out.
Kicking it off with slinky Lo-Fantasy opener "Shapeshifters," the six-piece band immediately demonstrated their mastery of the new material. The band proceeded to play the album live, giving the show a lively and complete kickoff fitting of a launch party. The new music adds a dance element to Roberts' ubiquitous rock and the band was tight, perhaps because the album was recorded live off the floor. Roberts was definitely not the only star player of the night: James Hall's bouncing basslines provided some much-needed low-end to the mix and guitarist Dave "Nuge" Nugent helped boost the sound with some dueling guitar linesm while eyboardist Eric Fares and drummer Josh Trager held down the fort at the back of the stage, and saxophonist Chet Doxas showed up occasionally to add some jazzy accents.
Lo-Fantasy is firmly bisected: the first half features the more upbeat, radio-friendly numbers (all of the singles released so far are from the album's opening side) while the back half features the slower, airier numbers, which made the set's vibe more chill and relaxed. It was an interesting tonal shift, and even during the more lulling tracks such as "Too Far" and "Chasing the Light," the band definitely kept things interesting with enough intricate instrumental lines to focus on and Roberts' indelible voice as a powerful anchor. Album and main set closer "Golden Hour" provided a nice jazz groove to complete the album's inaugural live voyage.
The band returned for an abbreviated "greatest hits" set, playing one track from each of the previous four records as a solid reminder of what makes the Roberts Band so great. After grooving Collider hit "Let It In," Love at the End of the World representative "Fixed to Ruin" found the band at their best, with all six members interacting with each other on stage to create a beautiful rendition of a Sam Roberts concert staple. The number of times the band must have played the song since its release in 2008 has allowed the song to evolve far beyond its initial iteration. Finishing things off with acoustic-led "Bridge to Nowhere" and seminal rock stomper "Don't Walk Away Eileen," the Sam Roberts Band that has been charming Canada for the past decade demonstrated that they still possess the musicianship and passion that have been instrumental to their success. The material of Lo-Fantasy is definitely nice, but would likely benefit from being interspersed among the older tunes in a live setting. Still, the band's presence and zeal made for an inspired performance.
Read an interview with Sam Roberts here.