9 April 2018
An abundance of vintage rock affection coupled with barrels of Canadian affability cannot help The Sheepdogs escape their copy and paste setlist.
Published in The Skinny
It's a grand sight to see that despite tour fatigue, supplying life to bars during unsocial hours, and maintaining some semblance of a personal life, bands can still process memos regarding grooming requirements. Long hair floweth like fine wine at a Roman feast tonight, with both acts showcasing their staunch affection for the music of yore before a note is even struck.
Harry and the Hendersons stay true to their aesthetic promise by indulging the crowd with a rocked-out and groovy dose of bluesy folk. It may sound like a tall order written down, but the Glaswegian septet spin a nuanced gossamer of the aforementioned genres that holds true on account of their taut tempos and perfectly pitched harmonies. Shake-ups occur continually throughout their short set as they shift from acapellas to jazz-freakouts, from eerie fiddle interludes to funky flurries, and they pass vocal duties from one member to the next like a hot coal. Pigeonholing these lads is an endless endeavour; safer to relax and let them lead us down any avenue they wish to take.
The Sheepdogs – from the distant plains of Saskatchewan, Canada – are ushered on stage by way of ardent applause, which increases tenfold when the crowd catch sight of Jimmy Bowskill and Ewan Currie clad in mariachi attire emblazoned with white doves, red roses and sparkling sequins. Their garb, coupled with inaugural tune I’ve Got a Hole Where My Heart Should Be, firmly establishes their plan from the outset: infectious merriment, wailing solos and an all-round Southern rock flavouring.
Tracks amass, rip and roll seamlessly, journeying through their discography with a great ease. The plodding bassline on Who? is a damn fine example of their ability to seduce the horde before them. Southern Dreaming’s cheeky twang initiates a ripple of accompanying claps and hollering. Cool Down’s dreamy, raindrop keys flaunt the group’s affection for soft-rock as Shamus Currie’s twinkling fingers are rightly given a centre stage. Their sound is easily recognisable, likeable and transportable, with a vibe that could happily serve a Richard Linklater flick, barnyard wedding or a classic rock tribute night.
Their vintage influences are sported loudly and proudly, which is perhaps the biggest lure for those in attendance this evening. Middle-aged gents in band tees from the glory days of rock – when rock was rock without sub-categories – are the largest demographic represented, obediently bobbing their heads along without shifting stance. However, there are a spattering of younger faces amidst the sea of older die-hards, which serves as evidence that the thirst for retro-rock is alive and well.
Nevertheless, there is a limit to our love. Tunes bleed into one another all too frequently, with solos and riffs feeling as though plucked from a production line. The room’s wavering enthusiasm is felt on numerous occasions. This may be due to the dominance of tracks from their latest album Changing Colours, which feels more like an ode to heroes of the past than as an emblem of the band’s own present standings.
The saving grace is a cluster of numbers at the halfway mark that sees the band change-up roles. Bowskill picks up a fiddle before trading it in for the pedal steel guitar, Shamus Currie abandons his piano’s seated safety for an at-attention stance to play trombone, while his brother Ewan plants himself in front of the leckie-keys for the night’s most novel offering, I Ain’t Cool. More of these shenanigans could supply a steadier pulse to the eve.
All in all, the memory of the musical-chairs section allows us to walk away safe in the knowledge that The Sheepdogs, despite their replicated rhythms and liberal leanings toward their influences, are a consistently competent and worthy bunch of rockers who deserve our attention.
Photos by Martyna Maz