The Samples perform perfect mix of old and new
By LISA BRUNO
Scene Music Critic
Sean Kelly, lead singer of the Samples, said the Samples always bring the rain, and the band did just that Thursday night.
As the rain and thunder pounded above Stepan Center, a new hope was felt in the Samples. It was as if the band let out a collective sigh of relief and was finally going at things its way. Having cut ties with its former record label, W.A.R. (What Are Records), the Samples finally has control of its own music. The journey to this place hasn't been an easy one though. The group has been fraught with a number of roadblocks but has always persevered. To say that the Samples is a survivor of the music industry may sound cliché, but it truly is.
Like any band, the Samples struggled to get signed, got signed and then struggled to regain independence. Many other groups would get lost along the way, losing sight of their goal, but the Samples hasn't, and that showed on Thursday night. The title of the group's new album, Return to Earth, couldn't be more appropriate, as the members have come full circle and returned to what they want as a band.
In concert, the Samples revealed a crisp energy and cohesiveness that has to be partially attributed to its independent status. The show opened with the staple tune, "Did You Ever Look So Nice," and followed up with a trickling of new songs from Return to Earth.
While there might have been some early reservations about the new songs resonating among fans, Kelly quickly put any doubts to rest as he pointed out that there once was a day when even "Taxi" was new material. The songs definitely held their own, and any reservations were abandoned amidst sea of fans bouncing to "Castle Walls." With a song like "Lonely Soul," a tribute to Elvis and Judy Garland, the Samples revealed its firm grasp of the elements of a soon-to-be classic. One of these elements is the voice of Kelly, which always seems at some level to have a certain sadness.
Laced in with these rookie songs were the standards, including, "Feel Us Shaking" and "Little Silver Ring." And just to please the crowd a little more, the band added cuts of other favorites in-between the classics. The result was a beautiful balance of old and new. The Samples has been around for awhile and can boast a long list of fan favorites — like "Taxi," "Who Am I" and "Anyone But You." Yet if the band were to play these most requested classics, the concert could go on into the wee hours of the morning. Still, the highlight of Thursday's show was arguably when the band broke one of these favorites out of the archives — the rarely played "Indiana."
In addition to new music and new energy, the Samples has a new website, thesamples.com. The group has the computer strapped tightly down in its tour bus and is very eager to keep fans informed.
The Samples has been playing since 1989, and in today's music business, it would seem this band should have a broader fan base, maybe a couple of videos and perhaps even an appearance on MTV's "TRL." But it doesn't — and it won't. Its members are musical purists, and fans are lucky to have them. They have maintained a steady focus on what they want, and it is a pure, untarnished desire to make music. In Kelly's words, "Didn't make much sense, but we loved to do our thing."
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, April 10, 2001