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The Slip @ Sala Rossa

Posted by Cat / March 25, 2007

20072403_slip-barbershop.jpgI first saw The Slip when they played Boston's Paradise Rock Club back in early 2005. Accompanied by oughta-be-a-legend guitarist Nathan Moore, the group was flying undercover, so to speak, as a modern alt-country group Surprise Me, Mr. Davis. (Does this make me sound like some grizzled, old music scenester? I hardly am. Music scenester, that is. Old and grizzled, well, give it time. But I digress.)

The show blew me away and worked to somewhat fill the void I feel over the sad fact that I will never see The Band live. Incredible harmonies, soaring guitar solos, and just a foot-stomping, hallelujah-chomping, rollicking good time. Talented jam-band college rockers (who dropped out of college) throwing off the scholastic shackles to embrace their inner John Lee Hooker-meets-Tom Waits-meets-early Springsteen. Awesome.

Well, it would seem that new scholastic shackles were picked up in the intervening years, only to equally be tossed aside, as witnessed at The Slip's Canadian launch show for their latest release, "Eisenhower", at Sala Rossa this past Friday.

The show openers, east-coast rockers Wintersleep, got things off to a thumping-good start with a hungry, determined sound and a consistently solid bass line that reverberated up the lumbar and into the lower thoracic spine. A fine way to shake off the end-of-the-week sluggishness.

I was easily charmed when The Slip lads (Brad Barr on guitar/vox, brother Andrew Barr on drums, and bassist Marc Friedman) took the stage; perhaps I was having flashbacks to that memorable concert in Boston (old-and-grizzled alert!). Andrew was sporting a wolf"s-head hat, a quirky, indie-rock fashion affectation that afflicts so many young musicians these days, but kinda cute, nonetheless.

Andrew Barr clearly loves to play the drums. Not only does he love to play drums, he is exceedingly good at it. Made me yearn for some serious drum solos throughout the set. Combined with the dexterity of Friedman on bass, the set was grounded in a way that could allow it to soar.

And there were definitely some spectacular flight paths. The Slip is, and likely always will be (thanks to that jam-band heritage) a great live show. You will never simply get a real-time rendition of the latest album, played slightly louder than you could pull off at home. I want more, much more, than that in a live show and The Slip delivers. And yet it was a somewhat softer show than I expected.

A few songs, such as lead track "Children of December" (which I first heard on a NEMO compilation in 2004 and have had in my head ever since; old-and-grizzled alert part two!) were delivered with the noise, punch, and thunder that they deserved. But in general this seemed like a kinder, gentler Slip. Don't get me wrong, Brad Barr's voice can dip and soar, coo and growl when called upon to do so. I just wish the growling, soaring bits had been called upon a little more frequently during this show. The show was true to an angelic, indie-pop soul, with some lovely dulcet moments but I kept waiting for Barr to bare his more devilish side and really make things rawk!

The lads are really impossible to pigeonhole. They describe themselves as avant-rockers, and if that means incorporating a little psychedelic-rock here, a little indie-pop there, all the while demonstrating their love and respect for roots, folk, jazz phrases, classic instrumentation and crafted harmonies, then rock on, you avant-rockers, you. The set was decidedly "purdied-up" from the grit of the jam-band days; yet the album moves the band away from earlier college-rock leanings.

I don't think The Slip is necessarily, consciously striving for that universal, pop-rock appeal, but if by universal appeal one means garnering "band-to-watch" nods from Rolling Stone, landing spots on Conan O'Brien, and getting some serious radio play, then that appeal may be theirs for the taking. Songs such as "If One of Us Should Fall" and "Life in Disguise" have the potential for mainstream pop grovelling written all over them. ("Life in Disguise" was, in fact, featured on the hit tv show "Grey's Anatomy" in mid-January.) I'm hoping they keep doing what they seem to do best, slipping [sic] seamlessly from one genre to another and, like a treasured doctor or bartender, being a band that you could grow old (but not grizzled) with.

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