Sam Roberts Band (2012 Surrey Canada Day) @ Cloverdale Millennium Amphitheatre – July 1st 2012

The largest Canada Day festival in Western Canada was held this year in Cloverdale. The festival was headlined by the Sam Roberts Band, a commercial success in Canada and the United States, and frequent Juno award winners. However, the Sam Roberts Band is likely the next Nickelback. As they played their set, beginning with the emotionally devoid “I Feel You,” and followed by the exact same song on repeat for the remainder of the set, the bored audience endured. What smiles there were, were at the outrageous Canadian inspired outfits by some, and at the wonderful moms, barefoot in the mud, with their kids of their shoulders. The feel of the festival was great, lots of people, family-fun, decent food, and rides, and so it is especially unfortunate that the headliners enthusiasm sounded so forced. The main stage was impressively massive, but poor production ensured booming bass, which drowned out the subtler and better sounds off the Sam Roberts Band latest album “Collider.” It was one of the rare concerts where the music actually sounded better further away, where you could ignore it better. As other commentators have noted Sam Roberts Band’s music is repetitive, and even when diversifying, by say, adding a saxophone (oh my!) – he still comes off as formulaic, and being ‘original,’ in order to be said to be original.

His lyrics enforce this lack of originality, and I quote, “You’re holding on but you’re slipping away / Till I can’t feel you anymore,” or are completely meaningless, “Smoke is rising from an open field / Don’t you know that the threat is real / From the top of Mount Kilimanjaro? / You look around but you don’t see snow.” He may be referring to climate change, but clearly his knowledge is limited to “There’s still love at the end of the world.” This lyrical content contests to the emptiness of this lukewarm pop-rock, which is passivity inducing. His music is so boring, they should have played it during the Vancouver riots, as it would have done a quicker job ending them then the police did. Even when playing crowd favourites, like “Where Have All the Good People Gone” there was little to no enthusiasm from the crowd. He sounded flat, the guitars – thrashy, and when he went acoustic the guitar was completely out of tune. While this is likely due to the poor production work done by the Surrey Canada Day organizers, it only added one more layer of poor artistic work onto the other layers of poor musical work. There was no crowd-surfing, no moshing, and no dancing; instead there was smoking, attempts at clapping along to the music, and people leaving. This band definitely brought a lot of people to Surrey for festival, as it has a good reputation for delivering great shows, however it did not live up to its success.

Photos © Derek Robitaille

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