The Sheepdogs @ Actress and Bishop, 2nd November, 2018

Long grey haired rockers and young slightly scruffy hipsters crowded into the packed room of the Actress and Bishop, the swelling body heat negating the cold chill from outside. Packed together whispers rose, excitement filling the air. The crowd had gathered for Canadian folk rock band The Sheepdogs; no doubt they stumbled across the band when they graced the cover of Rolling Stone, a clear approval from the music gods. With a 70s western vibe and powerful blasts of sound The Sheepdogs are a contradiction for music, both hard rock edge yet sophisticated, a little country and a lot of rock n roll. At  the Actress and Bishop The Sheepdogs wowed adoring fans with their insane musical talent and Canadian charm.

Midtempo melodrama ‘Who’ opened the night; in a swirling vortex of instrumentals and harmonies The Sheepdogs opened the night with a song that perfectly orchestrates the typical sound. A mixture of folk and rock the song is hard edged, made softer by the intricate and intoxicating layered harmony. As vocals and instrumentals collided it was clear that The Sheepdogs where here for a good time and they were going to force you into a good time with their music. ‘I’ve Got a Hole Where My Heart Should Be’ was up next, a sort of outlaw rock that seemed to mix a little Cash with Cooper.

As their bolo ties glistened in the light ‘Saturday Night’ streamed, followed quickly by twangy rock ‘Bad Lieutenant.’ As the base muddled with elongated vocals there was this deep resonation of truth within the lyrics, a poetical reflection found within the rock ballad. As the couple next to me struggled to take a selfie, shifting tempo ‘Cool Down’ brought an interesting balance of blues and country, shifting to an all out rock riff towards the end. Fans responded with shouts and numerous air guitars, a cacophony of emotion and excitement becoming visible.

Fan favourite ‘Downtown’ rang as the epic guitar bounced against big and bold vocals. A true anthem, the song was bolstered by rock hair flips that seemed to drive the crowd wild. Canadian anthem ‘Up in the Air’ shifted the mood from high electricity to a more reflective space. Expansive like the Canadian tundra, the song brought a sunny disposition, blooming and swinging into an easy listening mode. The irony of having a bunch of British rockers and one American jamming to a Canadian anthem was perhaps lost on the crowd, but that fact did not seem to eliminate the sense of enjoyment from the tone shifting tune.

The reflection did not last long as bombastic ‘Im Gonna Be Myself,’ ‘Let it Roll,’ and ‘I Ain’t Cool’ rang through. Fan favourite ‘Help Us All’ continued the outlaw country song with fans swirling, their hands in the air, to the progressively building rock. ‘How Late, How Long’ with its middle jam session felt like an intimate reflection on The Sheepdogs musical process, an invitation behind the curtain that allowed us to see how incredible the band are as individual musicians.  “Feeling Good,’ ‘Nobody,’ and ‘I Don’t Know’ rounded out the set with a cover of ‘Ramblin’ Man’ rounding out the night.

It is clear why Rolling Stone has highlighted The Sheepdogs. Their music is an exploration of new sound, part folk, part rock they craft intoxicatingly rich and progressive sound that is mind bogglingly brilliant. At the Actress and Bishop they delivered standout after standout, infusing every minute with energy that was atomic, redefining the evening with their insanely impressive sound.

Reviewer: Kylie McCormick

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