Sam Roberts Band brings new album to life onstage
‘Lo-Fantasy’ calls on listeners to challenge themselves
It was a Sunday evening and Sam Roberts did not care. In the middle of his set at the Jubilee Auditorium on Nov. 16, he and his band dominated the acoustically magnificent stage and announced, “I’m glad everyone has the day off tomorrow!” The cheers and applause that followed were a clear indication it didn’t matter what day it was.
“Well, just pretend,” Roberts shrugged and then the room exploded with sound.
The audience obeyed, and they would be hard-pressed not to with the grooving guitars, bass, saxophone, keyboard and at times the harmonica — especially with Dave Nugent’s contagious dance moves and James Hall’s flailing Hogwarts-esque cardigan cape.
Calgary has been graced with the experience of Sam Roberts Band’s live performance throughout the years, but this particular tour follows the release of the new album, Lo-Fantasy.
Roberts confirmed his familiarity with Calgary by making a shout out to the familiar faces he could see in the crowd that he has seen in his audience before.
Which could seem unrealistic, but The Reflector spoke on the phone with Roberts about the new album earlier this month, and he shared that the band’s first time in Calgary was also at the Jubilee Auditorium when they were still a, ‘young, clean band’ and opening for The Tragically Hip.
“A big stage in front of a lot of people, in front of these die hard fans of Canada’s favorite band,” Roberts reminisces about their first Calgary appearance and recalls watching The Tragically Hip play their hearts out from side stage.
“We had to get up there and prove to them and prove to ourselves that we were a band worth getting behind.”
Roberts describes Lo-Fantasy as being about the need for people to expand how the world is seen, and to veer away from the “what is in front of your tunnel vision that most people live their lives by.”
“We just come to find this comfort in that daily repetition in a way, but we don’t necessarily move forward, through it. Sometimes you need to challenge yourself to look beyond, to look wider. If not to look forward, then at least to step sideways to see it from a different angle.”
“We’re all in this together,” is just one of the songs that attempts to have the listeners expand their views and challenge, as Roberts says, “What constitutes real and unreal, what separates the real from the fantastic.”
He tries to keep this idea in mind of having an open mind while touring — especially being a family man with three kids at home. He shares the challenges of leading the nomadic lifestyle of being in a band and attempting discipline by not drinking before three in the afternoon but also the danger in becoming too tentative.
“You want to be a rock and roll band without being a rock and roll cliché all the time,” he says.
The three young Roberts know their dad makes music and his job is to go on tour with ‘the guys.’ He is hopeful that he can instill a love and respect for music with them, because he feels that it is one of the things that can help to “bridge the gap between a future that we don’t think we can have but we want, and the life we’re actually living.”
The screen behind the band during the performance could have something to do with these collective enlightenment thoughts Roberts is sharing — a vast triangle enveloped with abstract colours, shapes, faces and astronomical-like images intertwining, flashing and stealing attention.
Music is a vital part of the human experience in Roberts’ mind and he says he is hoping to bring this record to life onstage, as it was recorded live from the floor of their studio.
From the sight of non-stop hand clapping across every level of the auditorium and the pulsing sensation of the beat reaching the lungs from the floor with the adjoining rainbow of lights around the stage, he did just that. With the sultry guitar duo in “Chasing The Light,” multi-instrumental elements of “Sister,” and the inevitable nodding heads that arose during the piano of “Detroit,” his thoughts of positively affecting the minds of his listeners is not problematic.
“The world is stuck. It feels stuck. I know were moving somewhere but it feels stuck in so many ways, we still come back to the same thing over and over again,” Roberts explains.
Sam Roberts Band latest album, Lo Fantasy is available now through iTunes.