Live Review: Sam Roberts Band @ Orpheum Theatre – February 7th 2017

The Sam Roberts Band brought its galloping tunes to the Orpheum as the last Canadian date of a lengthy tour to support the band’s new album, Terraform. They gave the audience a great taste of the new songs performed live, but left the legacy fans happy as well with songs spanning back in their career to breakout album We Were Born In A Flame as well. The band members were barely-lit on a unique and minimalist stage set-up that included a cross-hatch of giant light strips. This emphasized the show experience, and in a way matched up with a maturing sound that has ramped up the use of synth elements in more recent years. The banter was kept to a minimum through the show, but Roberts spoke up a couple of times to introduce songs, urge the audience to “signal the mothership” by getting their hands in the air and singing a series of oh-ohs (“Roll With The Spirits” – total highlight), give props to crew and to play homage to the beautiful theatre as well as the city of Vancouver. This town holds a special place in the story of this band, being the city where We Were Born In A Flame, “The record that changed our lives,” was recorded, and a town that offered early support. Guitarist Dave Nugent also took the time to give a shoutout to his family later in the set.

The band members were arranged in a pair of three-person lines – Nugent, Roberts and bass player James Hall across the stage front, with keyboardist Eric Fares, Saxophonist Chet Doxas and drummer Josh Trager lined up behind on the other side of the ‘lightsaber’ wall, which was like a set of Czech hedgehogs on a beach. The latter three were well-obscured behind an additional sheet of light often cascading from above, which also served to backlight the three out front. Their silhouettes stayed relatively stationary, though one could see Doxas furiously clapping in the back or Nugent’s hair being swung wildly about his head if you were paying attention. The big exception to this was the couple of times that Roberts put down his guitar and cavorted about the stage, arm pumping, visiting by all corners of the stage, and during an extended outro to the encore-ending “Brother Down,” he even hopped off stage to take a burn through the audience. He was surrounded and totally enveloped immediately, his location only belied by the surge of people and cameraphones raised in the air. He eventually surfaced standing on a seat near the back of the theatre floor before heading back to the stage. Openers Hollerado also popped out during another throwback tune, “Don’t Walk Away Eileen.” This was the most boundless energy of the night as those guys tore around the stage, waving towels and urging the audience to get uppity.

Overall, I am loving the metamorphosis the band has been going through, adding modern layers, intricate and mature songwriting, without losing their youthful spark. Generations of fans continue to come on out and everyone was having a blast in that room.

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