Some things stayed the same and some things changed on the second day at Osheaga 2011. What stayed the same was that it was warm (though not as humid as the previous day) and that the female performers won the day. What changed was that urban music, for the most part, had been replaced by rock and that there was not 38,000 people.
I feel it is my duty as a Montrealer who likes music to take in at least one live show of all the local bands who have had some success. I have seen Arcade Fire, Beast, Chromeo, The Dears, Kid Koala, Malajube, Simple Plan, Shades of Culture, Stars, and Slaves on Dope play live. I headed over to Parc Jean Drapeau to strike another Montreal band off my list – Sam Roberts Band.
Sam Roberts Band was pretty big around a decade ago when they had a string of hits. The time was right for his blue collar, straight forward brand of rock. At Osheaga I was a little worried. First, I wondered if the too cool hipsters would know the music or give it a chance. And secondly, I wondered how his particular brand of rock had aged. Well? I hoped so.
Despite the fact that one guy in a trio of too cool for school guys sitting next to me during the set complained when the band closed the set with their biggest hit Brother Down “that the song was six years old” (actually doufus it is 10 years old) like that was a bad thing, it seemed like the music went over well with the crowd. Frontman Sam Roberts puts a lot of energy into the live show and you cannot help but appreciate the effort even if it isn’t your favourite style of music.
After all the band has been perfecting their live show for almost ten years; they are veterans and have it down pretty pat. They have perfected playing loud and still remaining clear. Roberts sounds exactly like he does on the recorded versions of the songs.
Though I was sitting at the back on the grassy hill (knoll?) I could see that they were hosing down the crowd near the stage. Good idea as yesterday some fell victim to fainting due to the heat.
I then moved over to the Green Stage and saw another great female performance there. Sia (last name Furler) is an Aussie and might be known to some of you as Christina Aguilera’s “partner” in the television show The Voice. Well, let me tell you, this lady does have quite a voice. Another powerhouse. It was packed around the small stage, but I managed to work my way up to the front on the right side, so I got a close up look.
First of all her look…man, I don’t know if she is unaffected by heat or something like that. Or maybe she was going for the award for most clothes worn by a performer during the festival or best Polish/Ukranian outfit. Whatever the case it certainly left an impression with it flounces and detailing.
Let’s move on to the more important aspect of her set – that voice! Huge! Effortlessly. Very cool. Plus she was very respectful of the whole thing. Started on time, ended on time, checked her time, and even looked up and down the entire length of the stage to acknowledge the applause given to her by the crowd. The little things count and she seems to know that. That plus the fact that she was visibly happy to be there, comfortable and happy, and performing (always a smile on her face) made it one of the best sets of the whole festival so far for me.
For a change of pace I went back to the big stages area and took in rapper Lupe Fiasco’s set. Now, this is an artist who would have fit in more comfortably with the previous night’s performers like Eminem and Janelle Monae, but any anxiety I felt about him being awkward disappeared as soon as he started playing.
First off, live he is “heavier” than he is on his recorded tracks. His set was like a fusion of rap and rock. The Chicago native gave attendees a rocking set. Right off the bat with Shine Down he engaged in some head banging. The growing crowd appreciated it and he fed off the energy. Helped by his incredibly capable and tight backing band, the only misstep he made was when he decided it was the appropriate time to go into an anti-American rant. Went so far as to call it “the land of the incarcerated and home of the slave”. And then tried to reel it back in by telling the crowd that the state of the U.S. must make them proud to be Canadian. Not the time or place, Lupe! Thankfully he went back to performing his hits like Superstar and Show Must Go On right afterwards.
Taking in my first set at the Tree Stage, I have to admit I was curious about British act Anna Calvi. She is British of Italian heritage, plays a mean Fender, has been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize for her album, and has been recommended by no less than Brian Eno and Nick Cave. That is something to live up to.
But live up to it she did. Taking the stage quietly, the tiny Brit put on her a little beat up Telecaster and wearing her hair slicked back and in a bun with black flamenco style pants, a bright red shirt with impossible red lipstick to match she proceeded to wow me with her guitar playing skills and unique voice.
Seeming not at all intimidated by the fact that they youngsters pushed up against the stage seemed to not be there for her, but for the rap artist taking the stage next, she began her 40 minute set with an instrumental number. Ballsy! I hope she knows that us older folks further back appreciated her guts.
Once she picks up her guitar the lady is ready to go to work. She is all business on stage and totally in control. No time for any talking to the crowd other than introducing the two members of her supporting band and saying the requisite “Thank you” between numbers.
She has an almost innocent look to her face, but as they say looks can be deceiving. There is an artsy, noir vibe about her music that creates an interesting atmosphere. Almost David Lynchian. Sexy, but mysterious. Impossible not to be seduced by her no matter what sex you prefer.
Matching the red of her lips and top, her music is plenty sensual. In a kind of sultry and intimidating way. Using her vibrato effectively, she was able to hold many of us rapturous and hanging on her every note. Quite evocative! She is also easily able to switch gears from blues player to sultry chanteuse and even on to rocker chick. And doing an Elvis Presley cover? Great! A nice end to a great day of music.
Sam Roberts Band:
1) I Feel You
2) Detroit ‘67
4) Let It In
5) Where Have All the Good People Gone?
7) The Last Crusade
8) Brother Down
3) I Go To Sleep
4) You’ve Changed
6) Breathe Me
1) Shining Down
2) State Run Radio
3) Kick, Push
4) Beautiful Lasers
6) Show Goes On
1) Rider to the Sea
3) Surrender (Elvis Presley cover)
4) First We’ll Kiss
6) Love Won’t be Leaving