Monday, January 29th, 2007
The last time I saw Sloan was in first-year university, almost eleven years ago and MAN does that make me feel old. And it’s not because I stopped liking them, I simply never got around to it. So while there was literally a bounty of other shows going on in town Saturday night, I opted to stand out in the cold at City Hall as Sloan played as part of the WinterCity Festival. And while I guess it was fortunate that the unseasonably warm spell that had defined Winter this far ended a few weeks ago (or it wouldn’t have been very Winter-y), it made for some frigid toes after a while.
Sloan have been Canadian institutions since 1993 and though they’re no longer necessarily the hippest band amongst those inclined to care about such things, they’ve always managed to maintain a remarkable level of quality from album to album. Even when they sound like they’re phoning it in a bit, as some of the more recent records have implied, it’s still pretty decent power pop. And though I’ve not heard it, all indications are that their latest Never Hear The End Of It – out in Canada last September and earlier this month in the US – is their most inspired record in some time. Them boys still got some gas in the tank.
Since I’ve got all their earlier stuff (even if my copy of Pretty Together is scratched and needs replacing) and didn’t recognize most of what they opened up with, I assume they led with the new material. It sounded like vintage Sloan (well, more recent vintage Sloan), meaning equal parts 60s and 70s AM radio rock and intros that tend to sound a bit like the opening of “Spirit In The Sky”. It was all well and good but as an old-schooler, I was happiest in the last third of the show when they finally began dipping into the old stuff. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed those records – Twice Removed and One Chord To Another came along at very crucial times in my musical development. But damn, the songs hold up and you can’t not sing along.
There was a time when a Sloan show was a hit or miss affair (a perception which may well have been a factor in my decade-long hiatus from their concerts) but I guess you can’t really keep at it for as long as they have without getting your act together. And as you might expect, their act was a lot of Chris Murphy being equal parts goofy and dorky, Patrick Pentland getting in his share of rock star moves (no one else’s foot went on the monitor), Jay Ferguson as the shy wallflower type and Andrew Scott generally doing whatever it is drummers do though the instrument switch portion of the show (nice to see they’re still doing that) brought him out front to take lead vocal on a few numbers.
With the exception of Pentland and Scott having gone completely gray, the Sloan boys have aged pretty damn well – I suspect that Murphy and Ferguson maintain their youthful demeanor by feeding on the blood of the other two, but I’ve no proof. At one point, Chris Murphy was asking who in the audience was in high school when their various records were released, gauging the age of the audience. I was around 18 when Sloan first hit the scene, and judging from the response he got, lots of others were around the same age when they first discovered the band, whichever album it might have been. And I realized that at a Sloan show, everyone’s 18 years old. And it felt good.
But Hell’s bells it was cold, even if it was only -4 Centigrade (or so the Weather Network would have us believe). I have to say that unless we get some serious localized global warming action over Nathan Philips this coming Saturday when The New Pornographers play, I’m going to have to give it a pass.
Josh Ritter talks to The Richmond Times-Dispatch about the direction of his new record and how much he enjoys playing solo, as he will at the Horseshoe on February 15. He also tells The Virginian-Pilot not to look for anything autobiographical in his songs – “I can’t stand autobiography in songs”. And for those of you who were catching him on his west coast dates, sadly opener Will Sheff has had to cancel after injuring his voice recording the new Okkervil River album. Support for the Toronto show will be Julie Fader.
Yo La Tengo are currently on tour in the American southwest and where the Yo La goes, interviews follow. The Daily Beacon, Orlando Sentinel and Miami New Times chat with James McNew while The Tallahassee Democrat minces words with Ira Kaplan.
Prefix has it that Idlewild’s Make Another World will see a North American release on April 3. We still get a staggered release from its March 5 UK release but one month is far better than the 12 or more that it took the last few records to make it over here. They’ve just released a second single and thus a second video from the new album.
Tapes ‘N Tapes are slated to be at Lee’s Palace on May 16. I’m never sure where the apostrophe is supposed to go in their name.
Despite a rocky inaugural edition and the demise of V2 records in North America, Virgin Fest is a go again for 2007 – times two. It’s expanding to Vancouver this year, taking place at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium on Victoria Day weekend (May 20 and 21) and some of their headliners have already been announced. Looks like they’re looking to attract a more Alternative Press-type crowd, with the likes of My Chemical Romance, Billy Talent, Muse, The Killers, AFI and Hot Hot Heat being counted on to draw the crowds. This is probably a savvy move since the alt.kids seem to have more disposable cash than the indie kids and more inclined to do the big corporate festival thing. We’ll have to see if this M.O. carries over to the Toronto edition when the lineup is announced later this Spring. It’s scheduled to once again hit the Toronto Islands on September 8 and 9. Here’s hoping for warmer weather and fewer leaky boats.
np – Midnight Movies / Lion The Girl