Vancouver Island music fans who learned to love the deep-voiced vocal stylings of Brad Roberts and the Crash Test Dummies in the early 1990s can experience a blast from the past this month.
The band’s international tour touches down in Sidney for two shows on Aug. 22 and 23 at the Mary Winspear Centre, and in Nanaimo for a show Wednesday, Aug. 24, at the Port Theatre. Audiences can expect songs from throughout the band’s significant catalogue, as well as the entirety of the 1993 God Shuffled His Feet album as a way to honour its 30th anniversary.
Back on tour for eight months now following the pandemic-driven shutdown of concert venues, the band has been playing to mostly full houses, a good sign since many of the shows had to be rebooked from earlier dates, Roberts said.
“We just hoped that people would remember they bought tickets before and come back out to see us,” he told Black Press Media while relaxing on a rare day off in New Mexico before an Aug. 11 show in Santa Fe.
Roberts said U.S. audiences respond differently to their music than folks back home in Canada.
The band’s first album, 1991’s The Ghosts That Haunt Me, achieved good success in this country (400,000 in sales) powered by Superman’s Song, “which was a big hit only in Canada and not anywhere else, although we had pockets of support in America,” he explained.
In contrast, album No. 2 God Shuffled His Feet – Roberts’ bass-baritone features front and centre on the hit Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm – did very well internationally.
The band’s lead singer recalled how fans in Atlanta responded.
“People took an interest in the song and were calling in to radio stations and asking ‘what is that,’” he said of a song that reached No. 4 on the US Hot 100, No. 2 in the UK and No. 1 in Australia, but only No. 14 in Canada.
Here, the album peaked at No. 11 – subsequent singles Afternoons and Coffeespoons, Swimming in Your Ocean and the title track boosted sales – but it was the No. 9 ranking on the Billboard 200 list and No. 2 peak on the UK albums chart that have driven sales of the album to more than five million copies worldwide.
Having followed up the European leg of the tour with shows in the southern U.S., the band was scheduled to begin its West Coast swing Aug. 13 and opens the final leg through Canada Aug. 21 at the Hollywood Theatre in Vancouver. They wind up with a pair of shows in their hometown in late September accompanied by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
Having reconvened with longtime band members Ellen Reid, Dan Roberts and Mitch Dorge in 2017 after a hiatus of five years or so, Roberts, 58, enjoys being back on the road. He crowed about the amazing hospitality in Europe – “the coffee is unbelievable” – and appreciates the more sane pace of their schedule that has allowed them to travel largely by van.
“I’ve been enjoying touring more than I did when I was a young man,” he said. “It was extremely hard work, and the amount of press I did was unbelievable on the day of shows.”
Roberts added the band is tighter now, a benefit of touring. Asked what he might say to fans looking to rekindle those memories, he was reminded of what one fan said after a show.
“They told me you guys sound even better than you did in 1994. That compliment blew my mind.”
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