Live Review: Slift, Paris, France, March 13, 2020

Even the resolute Freddie Mercury, were he alive today, would surely concede that there are times when the show mustn’t go on. He of all people could appreciate the consequences of spreading a virus.

Indeed, mere hours before doors were to open on a release party for French trio Slift’s latest album, Ummon, the French government forbade all gatherings of more than 100 people, in an effort to slow the coronavirus epidemic currently rampaging through the Hexagon. This show, therefore, did not go on.

More’s the pity, for the band has just hit its creative stride.

Yes, the group’s previous output—including most notably 2018 full-length La Planète Inexplorée—is competent heavy psych. But the new double-LP to have been feted this evening is a light-years leap forward. The album is in parts searing space metal in the vein of Finland’s Kaleidobolt and in others quirky psych rock with echoes of California’s Oh Sees. To its great credit, Ummon is sprawling and searching but never at the expense of a thunderous jam.

Slift is now the band Hawkwind would’ve been wise to become: muscular with metal ferocity, rippling with reverb-heavy psychedelia, starry-eyed with spacey wanderlust, yet shorn of all literary pretension.

I’m confident that if tonight’s concert had taken place, Slift would have slayed. Perhaps even more than the virus would have.

Recommended drug pairing: a factory-rolled fatty with a palmful of Purell.

Eric Bensel