Sloan – Meaford Town Hall, 2011-07-21

Just back from a truly great Sloan concert. I mean, the band was AWESOME! But we take that as a given now, don’t we, these 20 years into their awesomeness. And yet, this show was also one of the weirdest rock concert experiences I have ever had. It doesn’t detract from the experience (much), but there were several factors. I’ll explain.

As noted in my previous post, these tickets were a totally brilliant birthday gift from my amazing family, and they were great seats, 8th row on the center aisle. Perfect. Also, my companion this evening, our good buddy Craig, had never been to see Sloan before, and in fact knew more of their songs than he thought he did when he checked out A-Sides Win yesterday, so I was super-glad to introduce him to the Wonderful World Of Live-In-Concert Sloan. May he forever be infected and become a fan like me!

Really, to look at the venue, there was no bad seat in the place. But it wasn’t even sold out. I mean, this is SLOAN, people, where were you tonight if you weren’t there? Get it together! How often do they come this close to where we live? NOT OFTEN. Anyway.

A while back, I’d been to one other concert at this venue, a folk show. It was sort of expected, for that one, that everyone would sit down and be passive. It’s a nice, historic, old building, the seats are nice and comfy, and there’s been a renovation recently, so everything is all perfect and clean. But does it work for a rock concert? Hell no. Does it work for a Sloan concert? Not even close to hell no! At least, not the way they ran it tonight.

People sat down the entire time. I scanned the faces of th ecrowd from my seat, and it was obvious they were having a good time, and even knew at least some of the songs. So why were their asses stuck in their seats? By some cosmic misfire, was gravity too heavy in Meaford tonight? I doubt it.

Herein lies a run-through of what we saw. Remember, most people sat through almost this ENTIRE THING.

First off was three excellent renditions of songs off the new record, Follow The Leader, Answer Was You, and Unkind, all well played and actually built, as a three-song combo, to be a perfect concert opener. People cheered. And remained seated. Chris even commented from the stage about how weird it was to be playing a venue where this seemed to be the norm. Take the hint, people!

And then, just to make James mad, though it was because some guy shouted a request at the stage and Chris quickly quipped that this was indeed the next song on the setlist (it wasn’t), they played Underwhelmed. Sorry, James. I don’t know why you always miss this song. But it was so big and crunchy and yummy great. Wish you were here. I totally thought of you when they started it up and if you had been with us it would have been perfect.

From there they went to one of my favourites of Sloan All-Time Songs, the brilliant Snowsuit Sound, then they rocked it back up with Believe In Me, complete with monstrous riff, and then Shadow Of Love. Wow, they played that one fast! The Lines You Amend was next, with an intro from Chris about how, of all the songs they would play early on, this was one people might know. You think? I was already hoarse at this point, from all the singing along. Anyway.

Things got all fast and thrashy again with It’s Plain To See, which was so great, and then they crashed into The Rest Of My Life, a surefire song to get people on their feet, right? Well, no. But when they got to the line “One thing I know about the rest of my life… I know that I’ll be living it in Canada, ” I was waving my arms and generally making it known that’s true for me and how much that song reflects a certain period and person of my life, and Chris stopped playing a second, caught my eye and gave a little wave. Right on, man! Total validation of everything that song means to me! And then without much pause they went straight into The Good In Everyone, which brought the house down… from their seats. Sigh.

It was at this point that a break was taken. What? you say? Oh yes. A little earlier, Chris had announced from the stage that, for the first time (probably) in Sloan’s career, an intermission of twenty minutes would be taken. The venue enforced it, which tells me only one thing – they are paying for their renovation and they wanted to sell us over-priced booze. This was so, so wrong, on so many levels. First of all, of course, it killed the energy that the band had diligently worked into perfection. They were primed to fire on all cylinders from the get-go, so, this many songs in, they were flying… and then they had to stop? Assinine. Second of all, did the break really need to be that long? Add to this the insulting ticket price (OK, I got them free, but c’mon). I’ve seen this same Sloan show (an album or so earlier), for half the money. They’ve always been very reasonable on ticket price. I KNOW that the rest of that inflated ticket price went to pay for your pretty Hall’s renovation, Meaford, you greedy bastards. So, we dutifully had an over-priced beer (which tasted bitter-sweet), talked with a friend of Craig’s, and went back to our seats. I didn’t want to miss a thing.

It should be noted at this point that Craig seemed to be enjoying himself, though by now he may have thought I was a bit nuts, what with all my singing along and arm-waving and attempts to get people on their feet. I even tried to get people involved in the (I thought) concert-staple SLOOOOAAAAN! chant, but I had no takers, and the band wasn’t taking the bait from the stage, either. At one point (I can’t remember which, but it was during the first set), the band was between songs and I tried the chant and was met with nothing. The room was so quiet, I’m sure everyone heard me say “Oh c’mon, people!” Which led to Chris commenting at another point that they were “just getting ready to play, no need to make noise. Shhh. It’s OK.” I mean, how many hints do you people need? Every other Sloan show I have been to was a mosh pit, people dancing and having a great time! You just… sit there? Ugh.

After the ridiculous break, the band did the by-now famous Sloan Switcheroo, with Chris moving from bass to drums, Jay from guitar to bass, and Andrew from drums to guitar. Andrew took over the vocals for an excellent She’s Slowin’ Down Again. After this, I tried another SLOOOAN chant, but it failed. Andrew stayed at the mike through Something’s Wrong, from Never Hear The End Of It, then Traces, and People Of The Sky, one song I thought would surely get people on their feet. Nope.

Just before that last track, Chris quipped that this would be Andrew’s last song singing and they would be taking a forty minute break now, as he was exhausted. Haha well-played, Chris. Take a stab at the venue for enforcing a break! Yeah! But as the band switched back to their usual instruments, the room was totally silent. It was eerie, weird, and totally inappropriate for the loud, raucous miasma that usually accompanies a Sloan show. Chris joked about it again. I’ve never experienced it before, and I hope I never do again.

Undeterred, they blasted into an excellent Losing California, then another of my All-Time Favourite Sloan Songs, the venerable Pen Pals. It was at this point, of all times in the evening, when some of the crowd finally got to their feet. Why here, I may never know. But that song led, without pause, straight into the full-on rock blast of I’ve Gotta Know, which was really, truly great in the live setting. The lovely Beverly Terrace followed, complete with a Shadow Of Love reprise. Well-done.

Then came the always glorious Coax Me, and hot on its heels Everything You’ve Done Wrong, complete with vocalized trumpet parts, except for the middle solo, which was boldly (and at lower volume) taken by new band member (?) Gregory MacDonald on the keyboards. Neat! You know, boys, I’d take up the trumpet part, if you want me tour with you! Let me know. Just sayin’.

We blasted from there right into a note-perfect Who Taught You To Live Like That? and a rockin’ Gimme That. After this, another of my SLOOOAN! chants failed. And we dissolve into the encore break… during which I tried the chant again (and failed). It was getting pathetic. Not a single person would join me. But at least by this point, people were on their feet and having fun, cheering for the band to come back. It was a totally weird dynamic, as though the entire show was worth sitting through, but once they left for the encore, everyone got on their feet and wanted them back. Like, where were you all those songs ago?

After a few short minutes, the band came back, Chris joking he was about to do some stand-up comedy, and then they started up The Other Man. Little did he know how right he was, in that. Now, it’s well-documented and noted throughout this site (and just ask me in person!) that, even though I love Sloan unconditionally, I particularly despise this song. Today, I could not tell you what it is about it, exactly, except that despite its tunefulness and storytelling, I just find it insipid. Not worthy of the Sloan catalogue. But other people seem to love it, and it was a big song for them, so I can cheer it insofar as it was helpful to Sloan. If James were there with us tonight, he would have given me that same big, affectionate but still, eat-shit grin he gave me at their show in Saskatoon, 2003. Even Craig, a relative Sloan noob, mentioned he liked that song. Sigh.

But during that song I had time to reflect on other things I’d seen and thought throughout the show. In particular, what a group of consummate performers the band really is, at this point. Totally professional, able to react to weird situations (like the enforced break and people remaining seated) with aplomb, and yet still rock their asses off, song after song after song. I recalled Patrick’s lovely cream/white Gibson SG and his super-cool paisley blue Tele, and the big anchor (with indecipherable – from where we were sitting – text, though it looked like someone had autographed it) on Andrew’s bass drum. I remembered the familiar, yet apparently (but not) sloppy-appearing drum style of Andrew, while Chris seemed even more haphazard and yet never seemed to miss. Craig had correctly pointed out that, from picture he had seen, the band hadn’t even really seemed to age, after all these years, or even change that much. It was ultimately reassuring, to me. I’ve loved Sloan so long, and here they were, still giving it their all and making vital, important music… for people who waited WAY too long to get on their feet in appreciation. Anyway.

Finally, The Other Man was over, and so began the beautifully long, drawn-out version of Money City Maniacs the band offered up as a concert-closer. The intro teased us, the meat of the song rocked (as you can imagine it would), and Patrick played this long, beautiful blues solo during the break down, and then everything became a big sing-along between band and audience before the song crashed to a close. Whomever was running the soundboard had cranked things at this point, ensuring we’d all go out into this hot, sticky Meaford night with ringing ears. As the song wound down, the band played a few notes of a Black Sabbath teaser and then, just as abruptly, with a few waves of thanks and some self-conscious grins, they left the stage and the house lights went up. Presumably, the band was on its way to go swimming in the lake after the gig, as Chris had mentioned from the stage at one point during the show. And who could blame them for seeking some recreation time after giving us so much of themselves for as long as they did? Not I, the man who was saddened to see them go so soon, disgusted by the crowd that no one remembered the SLOOOOAAAN chant, and yet ultimately thrilled to have been in the presence of my heroes once again.

But it wasn’t over.

After the show, Craig and I headed downstairs to the lobby and were hanging around the merch table, which offered nothing I didn’t already own on CD (though all the vinyls would have been nice, there was only Parallel Play, Never Hear The End of It and one other. I was tempted by the NHTEOI vinyl, but it was $25 and I already own (and LOVE) the CD, so I left it). The t-shirts were… uninspiring. The design even looked sloppy, like the transfer was faulty. I’m sure it was meant to look artistic, but I couldn’t imagine walking around wearing it. Craig inquired, and the kid-sized t-shirts, which would be perfect for his son Caellum and my son Isaac, were $25 each, was WAY too high for a t-shirt for a toddler. As we were deciding to leave, we headed for the hallway and the stairs… and discovered Chris and Patrick!

As they were passing by, Chris shook my hand and asked me where I’d got the Sloan t-shirt I was wearing. I dutifully replied “Saskatoon, 2003.” He nodded happily, and if I’d had a few more seconds I’d have reminded him of getting to meet him that night eight years ago, of my telling him what I knew of the hurricane we’d survived in Halifax (their hometown) on our (my wife and I)’s honeymoon only weeks before, But just like that, he was gone, already talking to some guys who had driven four hours to get to the show and broken down on the way, only catching the last few songs of the set. Can’t compete with that, I guess.

Turn to my right and there was Patrick, whom I’d never met before. I shook his hand and thanked him for the music, commenting that I didn’t want to shake his hand too hard, him being a guitar-player, and all. He told me not to worry about it. I told him it was my fifth time seeing the band live, the first time being 1993. This phased his Pro-Meet-The-Fans facade a bit, seemed to penetrate and made him realize how long they’d been at this game. If I’d been thinking, I’d have asked for a picture (Craig had his iPhone). I really should have. I will regret not asking, now. Isn’t retrospect a wonderful thing? But such is life. My moment of time with Patrick is gone, and I will remember it clearly.

Man, I love this band. Have I said that before? Yes, a million times. And I’ll say it a million more. To see them live, even under these strange circumstances, was a thrill and an honour, and it will go down in my memory as yet another brilliant moment of my long, loving history of my appreciation of this band.

My HUGE thanks to my family for getting me tickets, granting me a birthday present that was indeed an experience. I love Sloan. SLOAN ROCKS!

The Set-List:

Follow The Leader
Answer Was You
Snowsuit Sound
Believe In Me
Shadow Of Love
The Lines You Amend
It’s Plain To See
The Rest Of My Life
The Good In Everyone
-break, wtf!-
She’s Slowin’ Down Again
Something’s Wrong
People Of The Sky
Losing California
Pen Pals
I’ve Gotta Know
Beverly Terrace (Shadow Of Love reprise)
Coax Me
Everything You’ve Done Wrong
Who Taught You To Live Like That?
Gimme That
-encore break-
The Other Man
Money City Maniacs
Sabbath teaser outro

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