Slow Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, May 8

Slow Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, May 8
Photo: Jennifer Hyc
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Slow are a band more tied to myth than music. Their meagre output — just eight songs, all out of print for decades — has been eclipsed by their legend: wild live shows, the riot they supposedly sparked at Expo 86, and the subsequent transformation into the should've-been-huge Copyright. So last year's reissue of their Against the Glass EP (a seminal proto-grunge document) and return to the stage is a righting of the ship, the Vancouver quintet reclaiming their story to add crucial context to their existing narrative.
 
Still, with just 18 minutes of recorded music, that's easier said than done. To flesh out the kind of set required of a festival headliner, the group ballooned to eight people, including a multi-instrumentalist on keys and sax, and a pair of backup singers. Hitting the stage in Toronto for the first time in over 30 years, Slow did what they're so famous for: trolled the crowd, specifically with an instrumental version of the Spider-Man theme.
 
Things didn't really get started until frontman Tom Anselmi hit the stage, a rat's nest of black hair swooped across half his face. Clearly the band's recent ten-night stand at the Penthouse in Vancouver had prepped the singer, as he quickly took command of the crowd, cutting a figure that was at once both swaggering rock god and ambivalent slacker. His booming voice, filled with malevolence and violence, gave the clearly well-rehearsed set a sense of danger.
 
Time has had varying physical effects on the band's members, but none have lost their chops. Some songs were stretched into coiling monsters, showcasing the band's ability to both flirt with and flaunt nostalgia. The inimitable "Have Not Been the Same" however, remained untarnished, retaining its sludgy brilliance.
 
More covers padded out the set, but towering takes on "Gimme Shelter" and "If You Want Blood (You Got It)," sung by backup singer Vanessa Dandurand as the encore, felt less like filler and more like Slow taking their rightful place among the pantheon.
 
 

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