Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sloan - You am I -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Sep 12 2011

You Am I - Even in the 21st Century, it takes time for good news to make its way from Australia to various corners of the USA. This Australian band has been around for about the same 20 years as tonight's headliner with neither band exactly being household words in the mainstream music press. Their loss, as both of these bands can really deliver the goods. First up, You Am I lines up with a couple guitars, keyboards/tambourine, and a rhythm section. Everyone joins in on vocals although one guitarist steadily takes the lead with his fascinating voice--the tiniest rasp with a gutsy delivery that gets breathier the more he pushes it forward. The band rocks in a way the Replacements did on record, but most often did not onstage. These guys had the guts to handle slower ballads amidst the fun uptempo numbers. They also fused some cover song moments into songs such as "Like a Rolling Stone". I did not quite recognize the songs the singer claimed to co-write with Joe Walsh back in 1972 and Joe Perry back in 1974. Maybe I'll assign someone to research that... maybe. This is loose rock'n'roll with a band in full control of the presentation. They prove that loose does not mean sloppy, but instead describes the injecting of a playfulness into a great bar-room set. If I had not known a thing about them, it would have been obvious that these guys know their music and have been playing around together for some time. This does not happen immediately if at all for most bands. The room was nearly full tonight and it was nice to see that this band had quite a few fans before their set. By the end of their 65 minutes, they had a lot more.

Sloan - The second foreign band tonight, this time from Canada, where one of the members mentioned how much they had in common with the opener... plugging away for 20 years and still struggling to get people to listen in the States. Sloan does have a pretty good cult following at least, but with their sharp hook-laden power pop, I am surprised they have not broken a lot bigger. I saw an excellent Sloan set quite recently at the Jammin Java recently and nothing changed much tonight from what I recall. They have two guitars and keyboards going at all times along with their rhythm section. All five guys sing with four of them doing lead work at times which does give some nice variety to the blasts of comforting pop-rock they put out. They follow in a path that earlier had the Nils, the Nerves and even Cheap Trick perhaps. Aside from their baffling stage patter which elicited some (mostly?) good natured boos from their fans up front, they really put out a great 85-minute set. Twenty years does change your stage patter and the vibe was still good. I think most people can get the idea about whether they would like this band and I do encourage everyone to listen. However, I am clearly going to need to work on my handwriting so my notes make some sense to me the next morning. For instance, I am not sure I can really help anyone by rewriting my note... "the guitar rocks sometimes like a thirsty pink bird". But if that sends just one person to Sloan, then I have succeeded here.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "No shit, we sat right next to Harry Shearer at the Chicago airport. Did we say anything? Nah. Did we take any photos? Nah."

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