When thinking of must-see live bands in 2015, Sloan might not be the first name that comes to mind. However, after seeing the legendary Canadian power pop band hold up their consistently great reputation at Massey Hall Friday night, I remained in awe. Their hour and a half set may have featured some speed bumps near the start, but Sloan’s performance at Massey Hall was undeniably electrifying.
Sloan’s set underwent a rocky start as Massey Hall roared with applause when Sloan walked out on stage, only to awkwardly deal with some technical issues related to their monitors.For a few minutes, the life and energy faded quickly from the room. Luckily, this lull was eventually filled by a crowd sing-along of our Canadian national anthem. Once the knots were sorted out, Sloan kicked off the set with their early classic Deeper Than Beauty. However, the band seemed understandably flustered by the awkward start, resulting in them taking some time to warm up and get comfortable. It was disappointing to see some of my favorite tracks like If It Feels Good Do It and Fading Into Obscurity played through with lackluster energy and confidence. Despite the holdback, two things still held my interest and attention through these first few songs: the powerful and enthusiastic style of Sloan’s drummer, Andrew Scott, as well as the band’s famed tendency to trade instruments between songs.
I have to hand it to the band’s musicianship — It’s clear that over the near-quarter century that they have been around, each member of Sloan has mastered the several instruments they play. Watching Chris Murphy trade off his bass guitar and instead singing while playing drums is one of the many novel talents that makes Sloan so entertaining to see live. Though at times every member may not be the most incredibly exciting performer, Sloans sound as good live as they do in studio. The quality of their sound was not only attributed largely to their instrumental prowess, but to the incredible acoustics of Massey Hall as well. Each instrument and harmonizing voice came through clear as crystal in what is easily one of Toronto’s best concert halls.
Four or five songs into the set, Sloan finally seemed really get back into the swing of things. They did so with their undeniably catchy song, Unkind, that had the crowd out of their seats and dancing. From then on, Sloan kept everyone on their feet with one hit after another. Songs The Rest of My Life, Other Man, and Who Taught You To Live Like That? rocked the venue and brought their main set to an explosive close. As Sloan finished their encore with one of their oldest hits, Underwhelmed, I couldn’t help but be overcome with a sense of patriotism as the iconic Canadians left the stage.
Ultimately, Sloan is a band that could have started phoning it in a long time ago, but the fact that they are, to this day, still putting out consistently great music and putting on exciting, enthusiastic performances is both impressive and refreshing.
September 11, 2015 –
Photos by Massey Hall | Malcolm Cook