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Thursday 7 April 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Sheepdogs

The Sheepdogs & The People, The Poet - The Globe, Cardiff

I heard a lot of buzz about The Sheepdogs after they supported The Temperance Movement in Cardiff in January, in the time between then and now I have become very acquainted with the Canadian band so when I saw that they would be doing a headline show in The Globe, it became a must-see gig in my eyes. So on a crisp Wednesday night I ventured forth into the Cardiff night to one of my favourite little venues to if the fuss made after TTM gig was justified.

Inside the venue there was a smattering of people that steadily increased as the support act took to the stage The People, The Poet. The Pontypridd or more accurately Beddau based band have played the prestigious SXSW festival in America and as soon as they kicked off their set it's abundantly clear that American's would lap this band up. They play emotive blue-collar rock with an indie spirit based around the old storytelling tradition of folk singers. Think Augustines or Gaslight Anthem wrapped up with some The Hold Steady and pinch of U2 at their most introspective and you'd be on the right track. The songs deal with life, love and hardship with frontman Leon delivering the lines with an excellent gravelly roar that brings the king of misery himself Tom Waits to mind. In between the songs the banter with the Welsh crowd was amusing (especially the story about murder and the singers mum loving Happy Being Miserable if they changed the lyrics). The band are down to earth and obviously love what they do, their songs speak to your soul and by the end even on a Wednesday night the Cardiff crowd were engaging in some singing along at full voice. Their Americana-influenced blues-drenched sound was not as upbeat as the headliners but the raw power of their performance saw them get a huge ovation at the climax of their set. 8/10

A switch over of sets with all the instruments tuned and sorted we were all ready for the main event. As the Canadian five piece took to the stage all hair and beards it was like being immediately transported back to the those heady days of 70's California before going South to the bayou and beyond, they opened with Where Can I Roam which started the show slowly it's stomp-clap rhythm building the excitement which bubbled over into the first two tracks from latest album Future Nostalgia, first off was I'm Gonna Be Myself which has to be the theme to a Peter Fonda motorbike movie? Then without missing a beat into the blusier I Really Wanna Be Your Man. What hits you are the harmonies of the band, both from the guitars and the vocals they evoke the glistening summer melodies of The Allman Brothers especially on songs such as the hazy Southern Dreaming which sees frontman and guitarist Ewan Currie and guitarist Rusty Matyas seem like like Duane and Dickie reincarnate, their guitars have a beautiful symmetry about them and when it comes to the guitar solos (of which there are a few) they trade-off with each other effortlessly. I'd go as far to say the Canadian's are one of the greatest southern rock bands I've seen and are more authentic than many from the South.

Their blend of rock, soul, blues all melds together flawlessly but they are not not afraid to truly rock out and jam through the songs like Bad Lieutenant which has a dueling solo section. The slowed the pace in the middle of the set meaning that drummer Sam Corbett and bassist Ryan Gullen couldn't provide the wall of noise they had on the songs, they were the key part to the bands sound and also their volume, my God they were loud, even from my raised vantage point at times the sound was deafening. Much of this maybe because in Canada the band are very big so are used to playing arenas rather than little venues, for me the volume was perfect though, it added a power to the set. The band ploughed through their debut album (playing 10 songs from it) the funky Downtown was about halfway before Matyas pulled out the pedal steel and added the sublime slide guitar on Jim Gordon and the more upbeat Plastic Man which saw organist Shamus go nuts with the boogie piano. Shamus then stepped up to the front of the stage, as Ewan took to the keys, Shamus then played a mean trombone on the gospel sounding Help Us All.

There was of course one thing missing, I personally was getting a fever and the only cure was more cowbell happily the multi-talented Shamus obliged on instrumental freak out preceding the psychedelic rocker Feeling Good. As the set marched towards it's end The Allman influence was at its strongest, with main set closer I Don't Know which sounds like it could have come off Eat A Peach this retro sound followed through into the encore which was their cover of Whipping Post, the Allman Brothers classic was delivered with passion and fury and rounded out what was a 20 song set list. The Sheepdogs were sublime, they were tight, professional, there was very little needless chatter and their songs had the busy room jumping with glee, the atmosphere was electric and the band fed off that to give a spine tingling performance. When this band return to these shores do yourself a favour and go see them as they are fantastic! 10/10

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