The Sheepdogs + Creatures, The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 18th June 2019

The Sheepdogs may hail from Saskatoon, Canada but it’s clear that their musical roots lay much further south – The Allman Brothers and the whole early seventies ‘southern rock’ scene based around Capricorn Records in Macon, Georgia are clear reference points. However, The Sheepdogs are no revivalists. Like their forebears, their sound is guitar-based rock with liberal helpings of soul, blues and country. To this they add their own fresh ingredients to create a modern take on a well-established classic recipe. The show having been sold out weeks in advance, there was a palpable air of anticipation in the room as the stage was set up for the main event. This culminated in a huge roar as the band took the stage, long hair, beards and tassels giving a clue, if one were needed, as to what was to follow.

Kicking off with an old favourite ‘Who?’, The Sheepdogs then launched into last year’s single ‘I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be’. This blending of the old (the band have been going 13 years) and recent material proved to be a winning formula. Guitar heroics mixed with gentler, subtler moments as the band explored each of their influences. A strong vocal performance from frontman, Ewan Currie, was well supported by exquisite harmony vocals from the rest of the band. A nice moment came midway through when ‘Up in Canada’ was marked by the unfurling of the Maple Leaf flag from the balcony. This brought a smile to the faces of five guys a long way from home. The consistent stream of good- time music was punctuated by the occasional spoken word and banter with the audience. “You guys are giving Glasgow a run for their money as far as raucous shouty-ness is concerned” was taken as a compliment. The music, though, spoke loudest. The complete set was a show of strength, with not a duff song in sight. The musicianship was also highly impressive, with switches of instruments on some songs adding fiddle and trombone to the mix.

Finishing with ‘I Don’t Know’, the band left the stage to tumultuous applause and returned to deliver crowd favourite ‘Nobody’ followed by an unscheduled (according to the set list), version of The Allman Brothers’ ‘Ramblin’ Man’. Already very popular in their native Canada, The Sheepdogs could well be set for bigger things in the UK too. It’s certainly unlikely that they will be playing such intimate shows the next time they return to these shores. When they do, get yourself along – and party like it’s 1971!

London based band, Creatures, opened proceedings. Whilst their slightly quirky indie-pop, might not seem an obvious way to complement the headliners, they played an engaging and entertaining set that won over most of the early arrivals. Given a similar slot supporting a more compatible band, I suspect they might well have gone down a storm.

About Clint West 318 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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