Echo Beach in Toronto, ON
July 26, 2012
Review by: Colton Eddy
Photos by: Pete Nema
I went to the Sam Roberts Band show at Echo Beach expecting a regular concert, but with beach volleyball courts, kegs, and barbequed meats, it felt more like I ended up at a college beach party.
Sam Roberts walked out on stage, threw his arms up and with a drink in one hand, he smiled. He was clean shaven, donning his trademark denim-on-denim Canadian tuxedo. Born of Springsteen and Strummer, Sam fiercely glared down the sight of Molson Amphitheatre on the horizon and blasted into "I Feel You".
It was my first time at Echo Beach, a venue named after the 1979 song by Toronto's own Martha and the Muffins, with a capacity for a few thousand and a picturesque waterfront view of the cityscape. Walking up to the venue (Tip: wear sandals) it was a barren landscape of sand, lawn chairs, and beer; it was a beach... a fine alternative to playing Massey Hall or Sound Academy. Immediately the tone of the evening was set: tank-top sporting fellas blowing up beach balls while their girlfriends competed in some competitive shot-gunning. Boys outnumbered the ladies in attendance, but in a flurry of dancing rugby-like formations, nobody seemed to mind.
Sam's stage presence was remarkable. With some subtle channelling of his influences, he commanded the audience with that Boss-like charisma and a shot of Jagger strut on tracks like "Brother Down." His Montreal-based band played their hits with such a fresh feeling as if they were performing them for the first time — even though it's nearly a decade since this six-time Juno-winning band debuted with their full-length, We Were Born In A Flame. Allow yourself a moment to take that in.
Banter was kept to a minimum, cramming as much music into the set as possible, and only taking a break to praise of the openers: Jezabels and Bombay Bicycle Club. They allowed their essential dock-rocking tunes do the talking for them.
Familiar organ chords built behind him, Sam strapped on his guitar and declared: "Let's hear it for playing rock 'n' roll in Canada in the summertime!" The back beat built, and the kids? They danced to the rock 'n' roll. With a smile and nod, he seemed to approve before running off stage.
Then came the expected encore where the evening completely shifted into an almost psychedelic feel. With a chorus of reverb slides challenging delayed twangs in "Graveyard Shift" and especially "Mind Flood", it felt like Pink Floyd's David Gilmour had possessed the band. The tempo dimmed down to make itself comfortable, there was a mutual feeling of liberation between the performer and the audience. Musical, spiritual and even sexual liberation. "Sing it for me," Sam pleaded. "Sing it for me!"
I Feel You
Fixed To Ruin
Where Have All The Good People Gone?
Let It In
Lions Of The Kalahari
Bridge To Nowhere
Streets Of Heaven (Promises, Promises)
The Last Crusade
Without A Map
Don't Walk Away Eileen