Yo, Canada! Sloan Transcends Boundaries at the Black Cat

Thursday, June 19, 2008

If you don't know Sloan, here's a primer: It's the rock group that's been dominating Canadian radio for 16 years while you've been busy making Celine Dion and Glass Tiger jokes.

At the Black Cat on Tuesday, the Toronto-by-way-of-Halifax band could have simply proved that the Great White Northern music scene consists of more than punch-line fodder. Instead, it underscored the band's multifaceted music -- as well as the pathetic state of American airwaves -- with the help of Skip from "108.8, the Merch."

Now, when a DJ accompanies a band these days, he's usually not there to gab about how great they are before spinning a Meow Mix jingle. But the faux radio show that framed and interrupted Sloan's set mainly served a practical purpose. Skip's banter and commercial breaks filled the air whenever drummer Andrew Scott and bassist Chris Murphy exchanged duties.

But it was also a sly comment on the group's versatility. Not only do all four members (a touring keyboardist made five on this occasion) write songs and trade lead vocals, they glide through genres, providing a mix of Beatlesesque pop, folk and punk that could indeed fill its own slot on the FM dial.

Mostly, though, Sloan just rocked. The musicians jokingly introduced crisp new material from their new album, "Parallel Play," but also included hits such as "Who Taught You to Live Like That?" and "G Turns to D." Guitarist Patrick Pentland gave the audience a choice before playing the latter, asking if they'd prefer to hear "something fast or something heavy."

When the song came blasting out, though, it thrillingly sounded like both.

-- Tricia Olszewski

© 2008 The Washington Post Company