|Sloan's (from left) Jay Ferguson, Andrew Scott, Patrick Pentland, and Chris Murphy each had a turn in the spotlight. (ANDREW MacNAUGHTAN)|
Sloan packs a punch in club setting
CAMBRIDGE -- "I can't remember the last time we played [in Boston]," said Sloan bassist Chris Murphy early in the band's set. "Who did we play with?" When a helpful fan offered that it was the Rolling Stones, Murphy said, "Yes, that was the joke."
Tuesday's Middle East show came one year and one day after that Stones gig, and if Sloan generates a noise big enough to fill the Garden, it might be better appreciated in a club. There, the visceral thrill of the Canadian band's power-pop hooks and classic-rock crunch couldn't lose its impact through distance.
Sloan didn't disappoint, especially not with a strong (if fractured) new album like the 30-song "Never Hear the End of It" providing the bulk of the material. The band started with the same one-two punch as the record, tossing the vocal to each member on the psychedelic anthem "Flying High Again" segueing to the triumphant chorus harmonies of the galloping "Who Taught You to Live Like That?"
That set the tone for the show, which mined the album's structure -- linking directly from scraps like the stomping "Something's Wrong" to fuller songs and back again -- even when dipping back a decade or more with older material like "The Good in Everyone" and "Pen Pals." But each song, whether old or new, short or long, got the same full-bore treatment. Even on the midtempo, moody "Everybody Wants You," drummer Andrew Scott attacked his kit, hitting his drums as though it was the hardest-rocking song on the set list.
Such urgency is vital to a band's survival (and sanity) after 15 years, and the constant shifting of the spotlight from one member to another prevented anyone from getting too cozy or antsy. Scott stepped out front twice, taking the guitar from Jay Ferguson, who bumped Murphy to drums. (Guitarist Patrick Pentland stayed put.) And even shuffling the lineup, Sloan still sounded like a killer arena band up close.
Brendan Little opened the show with earnest but undistinguished singer-songwriter fare. He was followed by Spiral Beach, which played a sharp, hooky, and slightly unhinged brand of post-punk spiked with dry, casually self-deprecating wit.