Commended Toronto-based power pop/rock band Sloan toured their eleventh album, ‘Commonwealth’, at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on Nov 29th 2014. They also recorded a live album on the same night. ‘Commonwealth’ was released on September 9th, 2014 on Murderecords/Yep Roc Records.
It is seldom the case that a band with 20 plus years under their belt would become relevant again with their eleventh album, but stagnation is seemingly not an issue for Sloan. One particularly notable quality is that all four of their members contribute compositions to their process. They also are all multi-instrumentalists, as becomes clear during their live performance, as they take on different musical roles throughout the show. They are one of the more democratic bands I have ever seen live. In fact I believe that their ability to break new ground after a career spanning a quarter of a century, can only be attributed to this album catering to the bands individual sensibilities as both musicians and songwriters.
A particularly obvious combination of generations eagerly awaited their opening number. For me there discography has had its ups and downs but they have clearly spoken to multiple demographics exploring multiple musical facets over the years.
The only negative thing I have to say about the show is that they did promise an opening act at 8 and there was none, Sloan then took the stage at only a quarter after nine. Of course this may have been part of a master plan to get a droning ‘SLOOOAN’ chant going, in which case mission accomplished.
They have proven themselves current and even now they are one of the best musical acts that this country has helped shaped in the past two decades. When they took the stage, Sloan was straight into “Penpals” a 17 minute power pop shoe gaze epic composed by drummer Andrew Scott, who took lead vocals and rhythm guitar for said purposes.
Sloan was started in 1991 in Halifax Nova Scotia when Chris Murphy and Andrew Scott met at art college. Patrick Penyland and Jay Ferguson joined very soon after this. Their general set up is Murphy is on bass and lead vocals, Scott on drums, Ferguson on lead guitar and Penyland on rhythm guitar.
The band took a distinctly professional attitude toward their set. Giving out bits of banter as they changed instruments. They also brought out Jennifer Pierce of Jale to reenact her harmonies with Pentland for a great rendition of “I Can Feel It”. Sloan left the stage after that for a lengthy interlude, in which time many people slowly shed off from the crowd.
They then played a second 45 minute set which included a healthy mix of hits and b side cuts. As much as some might have been hoping for a single after single sort of set, I have to say that it was refreshing to see that Sloan is committed to both tickling their fans with nostalgia and exciting them with new material.
The crowd sang along in a powerful chorus for their last song, “Underwhelmed”. It’s no easy thing to grind out a nostalgia tour and simultaneously restate your resolve to be current and pioneer new musical ground. It is something you have to respect from a band that could have so easily ridden the coattails of their previous albums.