Sloan – Canada – live review

Pyramid Caberet, Winnipeg, Canada
20 September 2012

Live review

Ever go to a concert in the wrong frame of mind leading to a rather up and down personal experience?

Ya, that was this Sloan concert, also known, to me, as “Drunken asshole night at the Pyramid!” It was also a night where I seemed to be in the “loud people talking during the show” section of the venue, which always raises the question of WHY ARE YOU PEOPLE HERE! If you want to talk, surely you can find a nice quiet place to do this instead of up front near the band where you have to scream at one another to be heard!

So, yes, I seemed to be in a state of easy annoyedness.

But, let’s get to the show itself. Sloan has been on tour celebrating twenty years since the release of “Twice Removed”, which was kind of their breakthrough into Canadian mainstream music.

The first part of the night was devoted to playing “Twice Removed” in its entirety, as is the new trend these days among well-established bands.

The second half of the show was a “retrospective” set for lack of a better way to describe it. About a quarter of the songs I hadn’t heard before, being newer releases that I have missed seeing as I haven’t been living in Canada for the past five years.

For those who don’t know Sloan, they are one of those mainstays of the Canadian music scene. Everyone seems to know them in Canada at least. Outside of Canada? Errr, not so much even though their first full length album, Smeared, was released on Geffen records. Many of their songs are part of modern Canadian music pop culture.

Originating from Halifax, Nova Scotia, they helped to thrust the East Coast music scene into the spotlight, much like Nirvana did with Seattle, only on a much smaller scale. Their own label, Murder Records, released music from some deadly bands like Local Rabbits, The Superfriendz, and Eric’s Trip.

Sloan is comfort music. It’s jangly pop, with plenty of “la, la, la’s”, “bop bop bada das” and other catchy filler words. They have a Beatles-esque meets Beach Boys quality, put together to create an upbeat shoegazer style.

Between sets, Weezer‘s “Say It Ain’t So” came on and it sounded bang on like Sloan (as a reference marker). As I heard one lady behind me say, “It’s just like being at university again” and I think that summed it up for a majority in the audience. “Twice Removed” was the first Sloan CD I bought. I only own one other of their ten releases, so my Sloan collection is a bit sparse. But I always have liked them.

At one point, some drunk guy gave Jay Ferguson (vocals, guitar, bass) the finger, which left Mr. Ferguson looking like “I’m too old for this shit” for much of the second half of the show which was sad to see. I felt bad for the guy and it was another one of those points in the night where I personally felt annoyed. But, by the end of the night, he was back smiling again.

So, it was Patrick Pentland’s (guitars, vocals) birthday, and as the story goes, while on the original “Twice Removed” tour, they played Winnipeg on the exact same night, the exact same stage 19 years before. I don’t know what happened, but somehow for some reason, Mr. Pentland ended up smashing a guitar on stage.

So, to celebrate, each member of the band through the night took turns smashing guitars (stand-ins, not their own). There was a cake presentation, a few streamers, and a round of Happy Birthday from the audience. That was a personal up moment.

Other than that, it is fair to say that the band is showing their age.

They have never been a dynamic live band, but age has definitely mellowed them a bit further. They looked rather tired, except Chris Murphy (vocals, bass, drums) who just seems to be in a perpetual state of happiness and when he’s on drums comes across as an enthusiastic Muppet off in his own world.

But, in the end, Sloan just makes great music that is great to hear. So, they don’t have to be a dynamic band. The music is dynamic. And, even if they aren’t jumping around the stage while playing “Money City Maniacs” is still a killer rock song.

So, it was a night of nostalgia, frustration, celebration and most importantly, great Canadian comfort music.

It was worth the money and worth being annoyed by some dickheads to have the Sloan anniversary/birthday experience; Happy Birthday Mr. Pentland, and congrats to the whole band for making it through all of these years together.

All words and image by Chris Hearn. You can read more from our Canadian correspondent Chris on LTW here.

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Deep in the heart of Canada, on the north shore of frigid Lake Superior, is a town called Thunder Bay. That\'s where I am from. That\'s where I started to write. And that is where I started to discover music. Now, I\'m a married man with two boys. I still love music. I still go to shows. And I still visit Thunder Bay, even though I haven\'t lived there for many years. What will you find on my iPod? You\'ll find lot of Americana, classic country, heavy stuff, punk and plenty of “guilty pleasures”.


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