Jay Ferguson of Sloan performs Friday, April 15 at The Needle Vinyl Tavern.
Remember the first time you saw Sloan?
Not because it wasn’t memorable, but because I’ve seen the Halifax icons so many times over the past 20-plus years, I can’t distinguish between their gigs.
Unlike Arcade Fire or The Tragically Hip, Sloan make sure to come through Edmonton on every record, or anniversary tour, which means we tend to take them for granted.
But, as they proved on Friday night in the packed quarters of the The Needle Vinyl Tavern, the foursome are still very much at the top of their game — maybe even at their best — walking the fine line between control and chaos, harmony and dissonance, cockiness and gratefulness, detachment and warmth.
They also, somewhat astonishingly, look even more wiry and hirsute than they did in their 20s. Bloated and spoiled elder statesmen, they’re certainly not. In fact, wasn’t guitarist/vocalist Jay Ferguson sporting the same hat he’s worn since 1996?
Reliving the past was the theme of the night as the rockers played the entirety of their 20-year-old album, One Chord To Another, in front of a sold-out crowd — from balding dads to teens just old enough to get into a licensed venue. Fans crammed the three levels of The Needle — the spacious dance floor and two tiers of seats and tables — clapping, raising their fists, yelling “SLOOOOOOAAAAN!” and mouthing lyrics, almost unconsciously, as vocalist/bassist/drummer Chris Murphy and his bandmates tore through their 12-song album.
One Chord To Another isn’t Sloan’s best record, but it’s one of their Top 5, showcasing each member’s strength as a songwriter and a vocalist — starting with guitarist/singer Patrick Pentland’s The Good In Everyone, which blends his knack for melodies and raucousness. Then, there are Murphy’s boppy and Beatlesque numbers (Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay, Autobiography), Ferguson’s bittersweetness (Junior Panthers, The Lines You Amend), and drummer/singer/guitarist Andrew Scott’s flair for psychedelia (A Side Wins).
Chris Murphy, left, and Andrew Scott of Sloan perform at The Needle.
Clocking in at 38 minutes and 26 seconds, One Chord To Another isn’t enough to fill an entire evening. So, after a brief intermission, Sloan played a smattering of career-spanning favourites — from the claptastic Money City Maniacs (1998) to the harmony-filled Who Taught You To Live Like That? (2006) to the Cheap Trick-flavoured power-pop of Unkind (2011) to the stoner majesty of Sensory Deprivation (1999) to the Beatlesque-baroque vibe of So Far So Good, a tune off the band’s latest album, Commonwealth (2014). Old or new, the crowd ate it up, though never to the point of exploding in a frenzy of pure euphoria.
As one of Canada’s longest-running bands (without a breakup or change in members), Sloan is an integral part of our cultural history and the music running through our veins. I don’t know what we’d do without them.
As Edmonton’s newest venue/restaurant, The Needle Vinyl Tavern is hoping to become part of our city’s cultural history, and it’s off to a good start, booking a wide array of top local, national and international acts.
The room, which has a capacity of almost 400 people, isn’t without a quirk or two. Fans tend to get stuck in a bottleneck as they move from the restaurant to the dance floor, and the main stage might be smaller than expected — Sloan looked a little cramped — but otherwise, The Needle is a welcoming and phenomenal-sounding venue with the potential to last more than 20 years.