FEBRUARY 18th 2016
THE SHEEPDOGS

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan http://www.metaltitans.com/concertpics/the-sheepdogs/

I must preface this review by saying that never have I ever seen so much flannel and manbuns in one place at one time for any one given thing. Maybe I’ve been missing out but…moving on.

First up this night at the infamous Commodore Ballroom was the Beat Cops out of Montreal. They had the standard 4-piece line-up with Mikey Hopner on lead vocals and guitar, Patrick Bennet, also on guitar, bassist Tim Fletcher, and drummer Max Hébert. If any of these names sound familiar, they should: Hopner is the former lead singer/guitarist for the band Priestess and Fletcher was on the Juno train with the indie rock band The Stills. Though some of the ‘mates have relationships that span backward 14 years and countless other bands, this coming together of Hopner, Bennet, Fletcher and Hébert was something of a clusterfuck but has since become an ADD conglomeration of musical mayhem.  It’s sickly simple to pick out the Thin Lizzy, the Sloan, the AC/DC, and the CCR elements (among a dozen other bits of sound) that come together in a pop rock ensemble which is both radio-friendly and universally likeable.

The tunes were all up-beat, cohesive, well composed, and good, wholesome fun.  Having said all that, it would be great to see everyone go a little more ape on their instruments. The Beats all seemed to be holding back a little; maybe that’s the only way that they can all play together without it being a total incoherent mess, but it was only on the 7th song in that I thought Hopner and Bennet finally let it out a little. To much of my faithful readers’ surprise I’m guessing you had no idea that this was the one song I really ended up liking.  Go figure.

The Sheepdogs got up shortly thereafter to no pomp, no circumstance, and no real hard-hitting opener. They started off with a ballad, easy/folk-rock number “Where Can I Roam” and continued with their very bluegrass-inspired set. As good ole Saskatchewan boys, lead singer/guitarist Ewan Currie, guitarist Rusty Matyas, bassist Ryan Gullen, drummer Sam Corbett and keys man Shamus Currie (bro to lead) have worked hard for many years (since 2006) to get to where they are, and are now staples on pop-rock radio. In fact, they were the first unsigned band to grace the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine back in 2011 after winning a ‘choose the cover’ competition. And though they are all influenced by their various musical backgrounds, it is impossible not to hear the Allman Brothers, CCR, and even Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young influences that run rampant through their catalogue. I even felt some old Bob Seger in the mix.

The ‘dogs hit a good cross section of tunes including “Who?”, “Southern Dreaming”, “The One You Belong To”, “The Way It Is” and some off their newest release such as “Bad Lieutenant”, “Downtown”, “Jim Gordon” and “Same Old Feeling”.  They closed out with “Whipping Post” (an Allman Brothers cover) and the very anti-climatic “Learn & Burn” in the encore. I have to say that Ewan has a great voice and a magical range, so please, please let’s encourage him not to loose it to too much folk/pop rock numbers and keep him firmly planted in the realm of rock’n’roll!!!

So somehow the Beat Cops and The Sheepdogs were able to sell enough tickets to hook the Commodore two nights in a row. As ignorant as I can be, I definitely did not see that coming. I think my blissful little existence in the maniacal metal world that is my mind I loose sight of the fact that pop rock is popular rock for a reason: it reaches the eardrums of all those out there who stay in the safe little nirvana of radio-friendly music. And this is where I happily say “To each their own!” as I will gladly keep the population up in metal mayhem over radio rock.

Great set boys, good work, but I have yet to be converted.