Sloan and Bowery Ballroom are a great combination and I'm so glad they choose to do multiple nights there instead of playing one show somewhere bigger. I've done enough Sloan reviews here so I'll try and keep it brief.
Jay Ferguson seemed ill or in a bad mood or both on Thursday. Even on the four songs he sang, he barely seemed into it, to the point he wasn't much of a presence on stage. Maybe that's what happened with the rest of the band when he missed the first encore (One Chord to Another nugget "People of the Sky") causing keyboardist Greg McDonald to take over on drums mid-song so Chris Murphy could play bass. When Jay came out afterwards, he gave the rest of the band a WTF look. He did perk up for a few songs, most notably Chris' "All I Am is All You're Not" and "Fading Into Obscurity" which was the best song of the night, I think.
Jay was in much better spirits on Friday, a no-travel day for all of them, and it was a better show overall even if the song selection wasn't as good. (No "Fading Into Obscurity" seems a crime). However, Friday's encore gave us one of my all-time Sloan songs, "She Says What She Means." For it, McDonald took over on bass, freeing Murphy to shift into Steve Perry mode, which he clearly enjoys. It's as fun to watch as his Keith Moon impersonation while on the kit.
Speaking of, Andrew Scott can get his Moon on too, but unlike Murphy, who just kind of goes apeshit, Andrew is always in control. He is, without a doubt, one of the best drummers going, and I am happy just to watch him behind the kit. He's good on the guitar too, of course, and "Blackout" and the Dylan-esque "Down in the Basement" sounded great. While we got "Sensory Deprivation," I wish they'd have broken out some of his late-'90s rockers like "Sinking Ships" or "On the Horizon."
They haven't quite worked out the new album live, which, apart from " Believe in Me" and "All I am is All You're Not," the latter of which is apparently about Canada vs. USA. And they still have yet to play my favorite song from Parallel Play, Jay's "Cheap Champagne." I'm sure when they come back around in the fall, the album will be sounding as good as Never Hear the End of It's songs did this time.
In a bit of wacky schtick, the merch booth was set up to the left of the stage with a giant illuminated MRCH sign. At first I thought this was a nod to RCRDLBL, MGMT, and all the other non-Welsh, vowel-deficient spellings that are all over popular music these days. It was actually supposed to be call letters for the in-house radio station, manned by DJ Skip Lowe (actually Small Sins singer Kevin Hilliard), complete with cheesy "imaging" jingles, etc. This was fine before the show but the band would throw it to Skip every so often, mid-show, which I'm sure the band got a kick out of but kinda knocked the momentum out of the show.
It was amusing, though, when Skip interviewed "special guest Chris Murphy" before Thursday's show:
THURSDAY SETLIST: I'm not a kid anymore | Burn for it | If I could change your mind | Coax Me | Reach Out | All I am is all You're Not | Down in the Basement | HFXNSHC | Blackout | Too Many | Fading into Obscurity | Believe in Me | G turns to D | Witch's Wand | I can't sleep | Emergency 911 | The Dogs | Living With the Masses | Another Way I Could Do It | Who You Talkin' To? | Losin' California | Pen Pals | Money City Maniacs | ENCORE: People of the Sky | The Lines You Amend | If It feels Good, Do It
FRIDAY SETLIST: Believe In Me | All I Am is All You're Not | Don't You Believe A Word | Everything You've Done Wrong | I'm Not A Kid Anymore | The Dogs | Sensory Deprivation | Burn For It | Ready For You | Witch's Wand | I Am The Cancer | Ill-Placed Trust | Emergency 911 | Down In The Basement | Something Wrong | I've Gotta Try | Living The Dream | Take Good Care Of The Poor Boy | Friendship | The Other Man | Money City Maniacs | ENCORE: Flying High Again | Who Taught You To Live Like That? | Deeper Than Beauty | She Says What She Means | The Good In Everyone
Hmm… what else? Johnny Marr was there. A few more pictures at my Flickr.