Sleep Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, July 30

Sleep Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, July 30
Photo: Matt Forsythe
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Dropping surprise albums on 4/20 and trading in album-length tracks that preach "Drop out of life with bong in hand / Follow the smoke toward the riff filled land," it's safe to say Sleep has a "type." As those followers cram into a sold-out Danforth Music Hall for an evening with the heavy, smoked-out escapism of Sleep's catalogue, you can smell it in the air.
 
When a plume of dry ice "smoke" manifests above the stage, the crowd reads it as a sign of Sleep's arrival, cheering and eagerly contributing to the scene with BYO ambiance, but like the big riffing scorchers that pervade the band's stoner epics, the cloud just accumulates and looms heavy above the stage, drifting and rolling impervious to the applause.
 
In spite of an eight o'clock start time, the band delay the show a quarter-hour to let the remaining line of faded black T-shirts that still snakes down the Danforth in, and some fans who immolated too much to handle the anticipation are being carried out by their friends like fallen soldiers.
 
It isn't until the band walks on and Al Cisneros lights a sentinel candle at the fore of the stage that everyone's internal rhythms align with the space, and from the first fuzzy note of bass that steers the bluesy liftoff of "Marijuanaut's Theme," they are legion — heads banging deep in steady unison as these king Weedians "initiate burn" and lead the way through "hashteroid fields" to "Planet Iommia."
 
Laced with potmanteaus, puns and out-of-body licks that make your head spin, it's a perfect testimony to the iconic dynamic the band's advanced with the intergalactic hydroponics of The Sciences, and the crowd hangs on every note without burning out. But Sleep still find plenty of room for the classics, following up the opener with the title track from Holy Mountain and capping off the first set with a triumphant "Dragonaut" (but not before blazing through The Sciences-honed Dopesmoker-era's "Sonic Titan" and Adult Swim single "Leagues Beneath").
 
When the band reemerge for a second set, everything rips a little harder as the band comes bearing their signature Dopesmoker, and while this show could have easily rested on the laurels of that high-bong water mark, it's a wizardly economical version of that monolithic hour, reduced to a lean 20 minutes and change that allows time for more catalogue signposts. "The Cleanse" and its toggle-happy harmonics provide an invigorating cleanse before droney cultivars "The Botanist" and "From Beyond," and then, in a devout move of Sabbath-serving symmetry, they cap it all off with the corrosive psychedelia of "Giza Butler": "Bless the indica fields. Grateful for the yield."
 

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