Published Oct 17, 2014There are a lot of interesting things to note about Sloan in 2014. For one, the Toronto-by-way-of-Halifax pop group might be one of the few bands right now starting their show with a song by the drummer that just so happens to last longer than fifteen minutes — in this case, "48 Portraits" off their latest release, Commonwealth — and having it work. It was an unconventional opening for a band seemingly interested in waxing experimental.
Commonwealth presents songs from each member of Sloan as one separate side, leaving you with what are essentially four solo EPs. It's a bold move for a band that's drawn some of its power from having their albums function as carefully curated mixes, and this was reflected in the first of two live sets Sloan played that night. Each member (save for drummer Andrew Scott) played a few songs each, preferring to play newer material, although that didn't stop Chris Murphy from performing "Coax Me" early on. With that said, it was rough at first, with various members flubbing lyrics and suffering some technical difficulties, derailing momentum at times where they would have breezed right by in the past. Yet when Sloan got into it, the band pulled off a diverse and compelling mix of compelling power-pop and hard-laced rock with ease.
Another thing to note — tracks from Commonwealth understandably dominated the proceedings, yet the emphasis on the setlist focused on the band's late '90s output and onward, with One Chord to Another getting ignored completely. It made for an interesting setlist that drew upon a great selection of late-period hits and album cuts. It's not like they're lacking in material, anyway; it gave the band an excuse to give songs such as "If It Feels Good Do It" and "Rest of My Life" long-needed airings to the delight of the crowd.
Perhaps Edmonton got the luck of the draw, but when Sloan concluded with a surprising one-two punch of "Chester the Molester" followed by the shoegazing-lite of "500 Up," they rewrote audience expectations for a Sloan show in 2014. With their huge body of work, Sloan could arguably rest on their laurels, so the sight of them looking to challenge their audience is a refreshing one.