The Music Hall, Toronto - November 11, 2008

JASON MacNEIL - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:41 AM ET

TORONTO - The first one was a good one and at times the band were on fire.

Maybe that's why the fire alarm went off before it all began.

The opening night of the Sam Roberts Band four-night stand at Toronto's The Music Hall this week was a 90-minute affair which pretty much featured everything you'd want to hear from the Montreal rock band and more.

Although some people at the sold-out venue might have walked away irked they didn't hear a few nuggets from his early years, Roberts and his pals definitely livened up the proceedings with a handful of highlights.

Touring in support of this year's Love At The End Of The World, Roberts, sporting a red poppy on his denim jacket for Remembrance Day, launched into the punchy, poppy title track from the new record as fans quickly filled up the aisles and front of the stage.

Looking much the same as he did when The Inhuman Condition EP came out back in 2002, Roberts and guitarist Dave Nugent tore into the slow, Oasis-ish The Bootleg Saint before fleshing things out like any well-oiled, road-tested band worthy of a multiple night stay should.

"Welcome to the four-night stand, thank you for being here!" Roberts shouted before the heady, psychedelic laced number The Gate got the crowd clapping along. It was this same tight, workmanlike approach which made the ensuing Fixed To Ruin come off so well.

That isn't to say that everything came up smelling like roses. The slow, moody Sundance seemed like a breather more than anything else. However, it set the stage nicely for the roots-y, ragged but catchy Hard Road with the audience being a loud harmony vocal for Roberts who urged them on repeatedly.

While the closing numbers had their oomph, part of the set's strength came during the halfway mark when the group offered up the weird but alluring Up Sister, sounding like a cross between Bob Dylan and foot-stomping rock. Yet even this paled slightly compared to Bridge To Nowhere and the rich harmonies which put Lions Of The Kalahari over the top.

Rarely missing an opportunity to give kudos to opening act and fellow Montreal musicians The Stills, Roberts changed things up with No Sleep from 2003's We Were Born In A Flame. The song, which features lyrics in both English and French, took the show down a notch before the stellar, lean single Them Kids brought it back up again even if many of the kids clearly didn't know how to dance to rock and roll.

Sounding like there was a small technical glitch in his microphone during Brother Down, Roberts was two for three during the encore beginning with Detroit '67, a great piano-led party starter that could've kicked off the evening just as easily.

But the band, also featuring drummer Josh Trager, bassist James Hall and keyboardist Eric Fares, left on a high with the winding but wonderful Mind Flood, routinely breaking the lengthy song down only to build it back up with some frantic guitar work.

Meanwhile The Stills proved worthy of Roberts' praise with a smart 45-minute set featuring songs from this year's Oceans Will Rise album, including Snow In California, Being Here and Panic.


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