The Sam Roberts Band hasn't always sounded so sweet. They'll be the first to admit it.
"At first, our own songs were unlistenable, even to tone-deaf people," the band jokes of its early days on its MySpace page. "We were consistently denied admission to the talent show, 'talent' apparently being a basic requirement. So we retreated to the edge of high school band society, playing at a few drunken parties, and realizing that our shows were far better when our audience was impaired."
Now, years later, as they headlined Thursday at the Square, they still seem to be playing drunken parties, but at least they can claim that the impaired crowd has gotten significantly larger. They can also safely brag about meeting talent show requirements, because as Thursday night indicated, they clearly have developed some skills.
Fresh off of playing the music fiesta Bonnaroo and now on a short Canadian and East Coast tour, the Montreal natives and Thursday at the Square alumni seemed happy to return to a familiar crowd. Just as happy was their audience, who showed up despite a grim weather forecast.
Opening to cheers, whistles and raised glasses, this creative pop-rock band proved they were well worth the audience's toast. As they jammed through songs like "The Resistance" and "Hard Road" the crowd happily sang along, and "The Gate" had heads bobbing and arms raised.
The night's treat was the slower song, "Uprising Down Under," one of the best and most beautiful pieces on the band's 2006 release, "Chemical City." In concert, Roberts makes it even better with his smooth vocals.
Whether or not you could completely hear and understand those vocals is still an iffy subject. The general consensus was that it was louder and clearer than earlier shows. Whether that was due to a better sound system or, as one Western New Yorker hypothesized, "the smaller the crowd, the better the acoustics," is still up for debate. (Although opener Grace Potter and the Nocturnals had a clear and stellar set, the sound was significantly more muffled by the time Roberts appeared.)
Though some of the crowd might have been slightly intoxicated, they could still recognize great music when they heard it. Not only did the band have the enjoyment of playing to an enthusiastic audience, they had the satisfaction of knowing they had a couple of summer beverages of their own waiting for them after the show. One dedicated Buffalo fan had already offered to buy the first round.
The high school party was a success, and this time, the band could join in the celebration.
WHO: Sam Roberts Band
WHEN: Thursday night
WHERE: Lafayette Square