Sloan Massey Hall, Toronto ON, September 11

Sloan Massey Hall, Toronto ON, September 11
Photo: Massey Hall/Malcolm Cook
"Once this gets going it's gonna be really good," Chris Murphy promised the full Massey Hall audience. Walking on stage to a faulty PA system wasn't what Sloan had in mind for their second-ever show at the historic Toronto venue. But they handled the 15-minute delay like champs, and they kind of had to: a multi-camera crew was on hand to document the show for what one can only assume is a forthcoming concert film. (Editor's note: the proceedings were filmed as part of the Live At Massey Hall series.) "Are the cameras capturing all of this magic?" Murphy asked. And they were. But they also caught an impromptu, fan-led run through of "O Canada" (what else would Canadians sing off the cuff?) and the band leading a PA-free sing-along of Twice Removed's "Deeper Than Beauty."
Once problems were solved, things ran like clockwork, beginning with posi-anthem "If It Feels Good Do It." Sloan were well aware of the show's significance, with Murphy asking fans, "Did anyone here see us here in 2000?" followed up with "Has anyone seen us since?" But the band's long-time fans meshed with the new ones, like a toddler named Jack who was celebrating his first-ever concert, and an unnamed little girl who later stole the show dancing and playing tambourine on stage to "Money City Maniacs."
Like any Sloan show, it was a democratic showcase for the four singer-songwriters in the band. Jay Ferguson shone with his sugary pop numbers like "C'mon C'mon," "Snowsuit Sound" and the crowd-pleasing "Who Taught You To Live Like That." Patrick Pentland chose more riff-led rockers like "Keep Swinging (Downtown)," "Ill-Placed Trust" and the crowd-pleasing "Unkind," which got everyone up on their feet.
Murphy had the bulk of the set with "The Other Man," "Carried Away" and radio hit "The Rest of My Life," which generated a massive contribution from the audience. Andrew Scott stepped out from behind the kit and was allotted time for the majority of his contribution to last year's Commonwealth, the 17-minute-long hybrid, "48 Portraits." It was an interesting choice of song to slip right into the middle of the 18-song set, but the response felt like a great divide; fans familiar with the album ate it up, while the unacquainted looked confused.
When it counted toward the show's end though, Sloan started to uncover the hits. "Money City Maniacs" is a bona fide classic in their catalogue, which inspired a spirited clap-along and the aforementioned show-stealing miss who, decked out in her Sloan tee, earned smiles and applause from the band. Murphy added, "Thank you to the little girl we rented who was supplied by Massey Hall."
Scott came out front again for a festive rendition of "People of the Sky," before they finished with their signature, "Underwhelmed," which still sounds as fresh and essential as it did when it first dropped 23 years ago.
As they approach their silver anniversary next year, Sloan still have the chops and the songbook to pull off a show that caters to both what the band and the fans want. It's a rare thing when a band so far in can do such a thing without only playing the hits, and a true testament to not only Sloan as a band, but the love their fans have for them.