Monday, October 17, 2011

The Sheepdogs - Irving Plaza, Oct. 12, 2011

The Sheepdogs at Irving Plaza

It's not often to walk into Irving Plaza to find, of all things, an open bar. Indeed, for such a large crowd, such indulgences are a rarity, especially these days. Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised last week when I walked in to the Rolling Stone-sponsored event and was greeted with free beer.

All of this is to say that, by the time the music was set to begin, I was in quite a good mood, both from the beer and the fact that my wallet would remain full. I was, you might say, in the mood for rock.

Rolling Stone had invited two great acts to entertain those of us lucky enough to be there, and I can't stress enough that the first act on the bill, a southern-rock outfit from Saskatchewan known as The Sheepdogs, did not fail to deliver on their intent to rock. Apparently, they were band that came out on top of a popular vote, a "Choose the Cover" competition that ran this summer. These four dudes, decked out in true southen rock fashion, had their images plastered on the cover of America's favorite music magazine. I would have known this prior to the show if I was a subscriber to that particular publication. Guess I'm missing out!

The people have spoken about the Sheepdogs, it looks like, and while I might be one to question the judgment of large groups of people, in this instance they were on the money. The Sheepdogs' set was groovy. I write the word lightly, but I mean it and believe in its essence. Their grooves were almost visible; their aura was pure calm. Confidence is a virtue in this business, and these guys have the confidence to get up on stage and play live rock 'n roll at tempos slower than the average person would think wise.

Seriously, in this day and age, everyone tends to rush their rockingest songs. Who wants to go to a rock show and hear slow music? Right? So with the exception of the occasional power ballad, live versions of songs tend to be speedy, maybe even rushed. This was not the case with the Sheepdogs. I went home and listened to their most recent EP, "Five Easy Pieces," and was confirmed in my suspicions that they were playing their songs live at the same tempo that they had laid down on the record! Imagine my surprise. Can you, even?

Okay, so I wasn't that surprised, but I will say that I was pleased. It's not like their set suffered in the least. These guys can shred, and do so in the spirit of the great ones: The Allmans, Skynyrd. They even had a hint of 70s rock, a little Steely Dan perhaps? Their song "How Late, How Long," was a particular favorite of mine. Great riff, great harmonies. Lead singer and guitarist Ewen Currie has a clear and firm voice, well suited for this kind of music. Both he and guitarist Leot Hanses had confidence in their technique and took great solos. Ryan Gullen on bass and Sam Corbett on drums were rock solid in their holding down of the aforementioned grooves.

By the end of the set, the people were dancing. That makes it twice that the will of the people has been spot-on. I congratulate the collective unconscious of my fellow music fans, and will now learn to listen, sometimes, to things I read in Rolling Stone.

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