Live Review: The Sheepdogs @ The Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver – December 19th & 20th 2012

The Sheepdogs are a Canadian rock band from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, consisting of Ewan Currie on vocals and guitar, Leot Hanson on guitar, Ryan Gullen on bass and Sam Corbett on drums. From touring on their own, the band was able to fund their first 3 albums. They have been around since 2006, but the world didn’t really take notice until their release of “Learn & Burn” in 2010. Since then, they have appeared at countless music festivals and became the first unsigned band to make the cover of Rolling Stone. In other words, they have made a name for themselves and fans just can’t seem to get enough.

I’ve seen the Sheepdogs play a number of times in the last couple years but always as the opener or performing at a festival. This meant that they were limited to a 45 minute set, at most. On each and every occasion, they played a tight, engaging set that left the crowd begging for more. Naturally, all of these experiences have left me curious- what are these guys capable of as headliners?

As headliners, the Sheepdogs sold out two consecutive nights at my favourite venue- the Commodore Ballroom. This is an impressive feat for any musician. Both nights, the venue was overrun by long haired, plaid wearing men & women. It was sort of like the resemblance between pets and their owners – shockingly similar & very amusing. For Wednesday night’s show, I joined the laid back concert goers sipping beers while sitting at tables on the upper balcony. I had a great uninhibited view of the stage and the acoustics were fantastic from that vantage point. It was fun to observe the mood of the crowd below, erupting into screams and rockin’ out to their more well-known tunes but there were definitely slower parts of their set. Some of their jams were sort of lost on the seated balcony crowd. On the second night, I made my way to front and center stage. From here the concert had a very different feel. The Sheepdogs played the same set, and yet I did not experience that same drop in crowd energy and engagement when they changed tempos. There were no songs suitable for a bathroom break or drink re-fills. There was not part of this performance one could justify missing. Songs that made for a bit of a lull from the back of the room were brilliant to watch close-up as the very skilled duo of lead guitarists showcased their skill.

The Sheepdogs complemented their tour well with BC-natives, Yukon Blonde. A crowded Commodore at 9pm spoke to just how popular these guys are in Vancouver. In fact, I have never seen such a large crowd amassed for the opener at the Commodore before. Clearly, Vancouverites saw this as more of a double bill. Yukon Blonde played a well-balanced opening set, mixing in newer and older material & rewarded by an adoring crowd. They rounded out the end of their set with some “classics” & I hope this joint tour has given them the additional exposure and fan following they deserve.

For a surprising twist, The Sheepdogs chose to cover The Band’s “The Night We Drove Old Dixie Down” as the closing to their short and sweet 2 song encore. Wednesday night’s show was a brilliantly coordinated rendition of this song between Sheepdogs Ewan Currie and Yukon Blonde’s Jeff Innes. Thursday night’s show mixed things up even further by including Dan Mangan and Said the Whale’s Tyler Bancroft in this final number. For Vancouverites who love their local music scene, this was a musical moment not to be missed & a story to be told to anyone willing to let you gush about the show. The last time these three artists convened for an event was for Keloha this past summer. These guys clearly have a bond and are fervent supporters of each other’s work. Tyler looked slightly uncomfortable with the lyrics to this final number but Dan delivered a strong and powerful performance. It was great to see him covering material that differs quite radically from his usual stuff. It was a great coming together of some quite brilliant Canadian talent. If you weren’t there, well, I’m sorry you missed it!


Photos © Derek Robitaille

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