Sloan are one of those quintessentially Canadian bands that can pack a concert hall in their home country but remain stubbornly unheard outside it. Although they’ve flirted with U.S. attention - they briefly enjoyed a major label deal with Geffen in the 1990s, and now release albums stateside via Yep Roc - after twenty years they’re almost entirely a homegrown phenomenon.

That success includes an outsize role in the Halifax indie rock scene which helped launch the careers of bands like Jale, Super Friendz, Eric’s Trip and other noteworthy Maritimes exports via their own label, Murderecords.

The band has enjoyed unusual longevity in part because every member has written songs for almost every album (only 2003’s ‘Action Pact’ doesn’t feature a contribution from drummer Andrew Scott, largely because the songs were selected by the producer, not the band).

With album No. 10 under their belts, the band was ready to celebrate their twenty years in action with a cross-country tour, including a stop at Mavericks in Ottawa.

Toronto’s Teenage Kicks opened the show. With a three-guitar line-up the quartet can certainly bring the crunch when required, and take equally from grunge and arena rock, with vocalist Peter Van Helvoort affecting a bluesy yowl. They made for an effective warm-up act, though any catchy hooks their songs might have had were effectively buried under the guitar noise.

Sloan makes no such mistake. Alhough they have guitar aplenty, played by Patrick Pentland and (usually) Jay Ferguson, they are all about the hooks. Andrew Scott’s thunderous drums drive even the band’s slower tunes, and the band doesn’t seem to have lost a step, even if two of its members now sport snow-white hair.

The band started in their second decade, with ‘Flying High Again’ from their 2006 double album ‘Never Hear The End of It’ before quickly heading into ‘Unkind’, the lead single from their latest, ‘The Double Cross’. Then it was back to the beginning of their career, with a well-received run through ‘Underwhelmed’, their first single. “We first played this in a basement twenty years ago,” noted bassist Chris Murphy.

Of course, Sloan has a new album to sell, so the next two numbers also came from ‘The Double Cross’ - the slightly dance-beat friendly ‘Beverley Terrace’, which allowed guest keyboardist Gregory McDonald to show off his chops, and the power pop puncher ‘Shadow of Love’. They took a few steps for the fuzz-and-jangle fest of ‘Believe In Me’ off 2008’s ‘Parallel Play’, then on to the second single from the same album, ‘Witch’s Wand’, which gave Ferguson a chance to step up and sing one of his tunes.

The crowd really came alive for fan fave ‘The Rest of My Life’ from ‘Action Pact’ - a slower, more melancholy tune as the title suggests. It should be noted, for those unfamiliar with the band’s live shows, that Sloan fans are great sing-alongers. Show-goers who frown on the thought of waving their beverage in the air while hollering the lyrics with one’s fellows might want to find another band to idolize (or at least dodge their concerts).

‘Ill-Placed Trust’ was another ‘Never Hear the End Of It’ song, with a steady Scott-driven thud and Ferguson’s freakout guitar out front.

‘The N.S.’, with its moody piano intro offered the band a chance too tune up and generally take a breather before heading into the mantra chant of ‘I Gotta Try’ - one of Scott’s tune. He stepped out from behind the drums and, with Murphy taking over the kit and Ferguson shifting over to bass, he had a chance to sing a bundles of his tunes, including the punkish ‘Emergency 911’ with its shouted "I don’t want no policeman creeping round my front door!” from ‘Parallel Play’ and ‘Traces’ from ‘The Double Cross’.

Scott headed back behind the drum kit for ‘The Double Cross’ lead-off track ‘Follow The Leader’ and its own follow-on track, ‘The Answer Was You’.
Pentland took over the microphone for the galloping rock-out ‘Losing California’ from their first decade in action, then an even earlier number, ‘Penpals’, which goes back as far as 1994 and ‘Twice Removed’. The audience was also thrilled to hear ‘One Chord To Another’ track ‘Everything You’ve Done Wrong’ before the band jumped forward again to another Ferguson tune, ‘Take Good Care of the Poor Boy’ from ‘Between the Bridges’. Sloan then wrapped things up for the jubilating audience with the sentimental ‘The Other Man’ and perennial favourite ‘The Good In Everyone’ from their early days.

They then encored with a trio of tunes including oddball tribute ‘Chester the Molester’.

Some might quibble over the lack of such popular tunes as the yearning ‘Coax Me’, but when you have twenty years to draw on and more than a hundred tunes, something’s going to get left out. As usual with the band’s marathon sets, the only other complaint was that it was over too soon.


Set List:

Flying High Again
Unkind
Underwhelmed
Beverley Terrace
Shadow Of Love
Believe In Me
Witch’s Wand
The Rest of My Life
Ill-Placed Trust
The N.S.
I Gotta Try
She’s Slowing Down
Emergency 911
Traces
Follow the Leader
The Answer Was You
Losing California
Pen Pals
Everything You’ve Done Wrong
Take Good Care of the Poor Boy
The Other Man
The Good In Everyone

Encore:

Who Taught You To Live Like That?
Chester the Molester
?















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