Friday, July 22nd 2011
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On a day where we awoke to the double-barrelled shotgun blast of bad news – the massacre in Norway and the passing of Amy Winehouse – I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Sloan onstage at Rock the Park. What could possibly clear away the dark clouds? A show by my favourite band, naturally. I’ve been a fan since 1992 and they have never let me down. My apologies for waxing sentimental here, but there have been many, many wounds salved over the past two decades by their music.
With a festival like Rock the Park, it’s often a ‘mixed bag’ in terms of the energy of the crowd. Unlike Sloan’s last show in town (at London Music Hall, April 2010), not everyone there has waited hours in eager anticipation for their particular set. But one of the best things about multiple-act festivals is experiencing how genuinely talented live performers win over the majority of the audience. Sloan did that.
At one point, there was mention of some people clapping in the ‘lasagna section,’ probably in reference to one of the sponsor’s tents. My 13-year-old son – who was born and bred in an extremely Sloan-saturated environment and knows their catalogue probably as well as I do – said, “Where’s the lasagna section?! I want some!”
To be sure, there were many people grooving along. Beyond the borders of the fence, people were perched in trees and standing on the rooftops of apartment buildings to steal a peek of the stage. More still were dancing freely on the green expanses of Harris Park. Casual music fans recognized the hits like Losing California, Money City Maniacs, The Good in Everyone, The Rest of My Life. Many people are familiar with The Other Man, too. In fact, this one was a crowd fave at The Music Hall. People really dig this tune and its apparently universal theme.
The set was peppered with songs from their newest release The Double Cross – a monumental XX work. They opened with their trilogy of Follow the Leader/The Answer is You/Unkind, the first three cuts of the album. The Answer is You is a beauty; an instant classic Jay song. Unkind, their current single, has some of the sweetest leading intro and outro since Pretty Together (the song). Greg McDonald is likewise a fantastic musician to hear play live.
And, of course, it was a thrill to hear Underwhelmed, one of the seminal Canadian songs of my generation, and the song that made such a profound impression on me as a teenager. The unique timbre created by the vocal harmonies of Chris and Patrick in particular cannot be overstated – it really is a touchstone of Canadian rock. It was an extra treat too because they rarely do Underwhelmed live. It certainly pleased the masses.
My son and I left after Sloan – and I’m glad we did, even though there were followed by Our Lady Peace and headliners Stone Temple Pilots. Ominous clouds gathered over the city in an early parallel play of my state of mind going into the concert. Thanks for doing Rock the Park, guys. And thanks for reading!
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