Sam Roberts Band spreads their Human Heat at the Orpheum

Photo courtesy of the Georgia Straight
Photo courtesy of the Georgia Straight

When witnessing a high-intensity alternative rock performance in Vancouver, there is no better venue than the Orpheum theatre, a National Heritage site built in 1927. All 2,672 seats were occupied this past Tuesday night during one of the best live shows you may have had the privilege of experiencing: The Sam Roberts Band.

Their opening band, Hollerado, played energetic tunes which set the tone for a night of electrified dancing. Audiences were wowed by the talented quartet consisting of Menno Versteeg on vocals, Nixon Boyd—who almost stole the show with his insane guitar riffs—Dean Baxter on bass, and Jake Boyd pounding the drums.

After their one hour set, anticipation for the headliner pervaded through the audience. Sure enough, a deep, supernatural-sounding bass melody echoed through the auditorium. The crowd immediately rose, cheering as the iconic South African-born singer emerged from the smoke-filled stage. “Terraform”, also the name of their new album and tour, initiated the intergalactic journey to an Indie Rock planet. Steered by Dave Nugent on guitar, Eric Fares on keyboard and guitar, James Hall on bass, Josh Trager on drums, Chet Doxas on saxophone and the one and only Sam Roberts, this concert was one of a kind. As if needing an introduction, Sam shouted “Good evening Vancouver! We’re the Sam Roberts Band from Montreal; welcome one and all!”. “Shapeshifters”, a synthesizer-heavy song off their previous album Lo-Fantasy, changed the vibe while the audience grooved along as Sam sang about humans’ disguised intentions. Keeping the dance fire burning, “Human Heat” followed, and the audience chanted along with the chorus and thoroughly immersed themselves in the core guitar riff. Returning to their newest album, they performed “Tourist Trap” next, in which co-producer Graham Walsh’s electronic influence is very evident.

The night alternated between slower, more melancholy hits like “Angola” and “Metal Skin”, and high-percussion ones like “Fixed to Ruin” and “Where Have all the Good People Gone”, wherein Sam had the entire crowd ‘woh’ing until the end of the song. Some notable songs from Terraform included “Roll with the Spirits”, which tackles depression, and “Black Spark” with its familiar theme of heartbreak and betrayal coinciding with the unexpected transitions in melody and beat.

True fans’ delighted screams echoed through the air when the tranquil guitar melody of “Bridge to Nowhere” chimed through the amphitheatre, rewinding the clock eleven years back to when it was first released. Other oldies like “Don’t Walk Away Eileen” and “Them Kids” were highlights, their catchy refrains amplified by the enthusiastic crowd.

The encore commenced with “Fiend” from Terraform, its eerie melody guiding the audience back to Sam’s indie planet, after which someone yelled “I love you!”, and Sam responded with “We love you too man!”. “We’re All in this Together” got everyone bouncing and shaking, which was sharply contrasted by “Uprising from Down Under” which saw the audience swaying along to the profound love song. The set ended with the 2003 hit that started it all, “Brother Down”. The nostalgia-infused audience rushed to the front of the stage, and Sam jumped off to spread some hugs and high fives! It was quite a scene to behold, with smiles perpetuating through the oval-shaped theatre, positive vibrations radiating. Sam expressed gratitude with a final message “We love you Vancouver, thank you so much! Thank you Hollerado! Now you take care of yourselves, and you take care of each other. We’ll see you the next time!”