REVIEW gig The Sheepdogs Leeds Wardrobe 1st April 2016

The Sheepdogs - Future Nostalgia

If you witnessed The Temperance Movement ‘White Bear’ tour earlier this year and managed to get an early standing position, then you also saw a great Canadian blues/rock band support them. They are The Sheepdogs and hail from Saskatoon, but you would be forgiven if you thought they were from closer to the more southern American states.

Tonight it’s the second date on their first proper headline UK tour and they are playing some smallish club venues, in Leeds it’s the wardrobe which is really a large pub, and the stage is set low with the band pretty much in the faces of the front row. It’s a cold wet night in Leeds and ideal to get warmed up with some great blues rock sounds. The setlist is quite long with over 20 songs, and I spy a legendary Allman Brothers finale with ‘Whipping Post’ which doesn’t surprise me. The sound of the Sheepdogs is much compared to the Allmans with twin Gibsons played by Jimmy Bowskill and frontman and lead vocalist Ewan Currie, someone else described them as The Kinks and Lynyrd Skynyrd jamming in Dave Clark’s garage. So we are definitely in for a good time, and the boys walk out on stage with a couple of bottles of tiger beer in hand and go straight into ‘Where I can Roam’, it’s a slow burner but a great opening track and one of many they play tonight from ‘Future Nostalgia’ their latest record.

If you closed your eyes you could well be at the Fillmore in San Francisco circa 76, in fact even if you open your eyes Shamus Currie’s style with his long hair and ‘tash and Hammond sounding keys are right out of the southern rock textbook. The show is just chock full of toe tapping, foot stomping tracks like ‘Back Down’ and ‘I’m gonna be myself’ the setlist is well paced and spanning several albums worth of material. Despite this being their first headlining tour in the UK, they have over 10 year’s experience to bring to the party and it shows in abundance, a tight well rehearsed rock band.

There is a bit of country rock choreography going on here too, plenty of times when the 3 guitars come forward in unison and when bassist Ryan Gullen and guitarist Jimmy Bowskill do a backward forward step routine in front of the drumkit. In a way its ok, but after a while you wonder whether this is starting to stray from the blues into a hazy country hoedown, thankfully that doesn’t happen, although we do get some pedal steel from Bowskill and a song about a guy who murders his mother. Nobody “Yeehaw’d” at the end although one drunken dancer in the crowd tried to grab Bowskill’s shoulder, and he got a neat verbal (and to the point) reply from the bluesman.

‘How late how long’ provides some sublime twin guitar moments, plenty of tambourine thrashing, but the highlight of the set for me is when Shamus Currie steps out from the keys with his trombone for ‘Help Us All’, and whilst a 3 word chorus could be tedious for some, the infectious brass parping riff reply is just bliss to my ears, making the band altogether more psychedelic soul than country, and adding another layer to this experience.

Brother of Shamus – Ewan, tries to make comment about Leeds but it deteriorated into “You once had a great soccer team, but there was a scandal…” thankfully he left it there and got back into the music with a fuzzy ‘Feeling Good’ which is more Black Keys than Black Crowes, and by now Jimmy Bowskill is throwing all kinds of guitar muso faces, so much so that his hat fell off at one point. On the home run with ‘How Late, How Long’ and it’s catchy ‘Sweet home Alabama’ type hooks, and then the crowd finally join in on ‘I Don’t Know’.

The encore is the aforementioned ‘Whipping Post’ and really showcases the quality of this fine band, if you want to find a new artist that throws back to the glory days of hairy 70’s Southern Rock, and yet still manages to bring something new to the party, then The Sheepdogs are the ‘Future Nostalgia’ you are looking for. Catch them in the UK throughout April and hopefully a return again here sometime soon.

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