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Review: The Sheepdogs "Backroad Boogie" tour stop in Prince Albert lives up to the hype (Jan. 25/2024)

by Scott Roos

photos by Scott Roos

This past Thursday, January 25th, Prince Albert’s EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts, were treated to a proper rock show thanks to the thunderous, shredtastic sonics of one of our province's most prized musical exports: The Sheepdogs. It was a near capacity crowd, with would-be rockers no doubt coming from miles around to catch a rare glimpse of an international touring band playing in the smaller centre of Prince Albert. It was all part of their “Backroad Boogie Tour” which promised to deliver the majesty of rock to communities that don’t often get to experience a band of their ilk. 

Opening up the night was folksy, alt-country songstress Ellen Froese, with a top notch backing band in tow, that included lead guitarist Jason Jones, bassist Matt Coldwell and drummer Andrew McCarthy. She provided a quality set of catchy, albeit low key, predominantly original numbers. The audience was appreciative of Froese’s efforts and responded with many belly laughs when it came to the dry wit of her on stage banter. Froese had been traveling with The Sheepdogs since their first scheduled “Backroad Boogie” stop  in  Parry Sound, Ontario; six dates in total including Prince Albert. Froese’s relaxed vibes eased the audience in, no doubt providing a literal calm before the storm. It was also a nice touch that a local to Saskatchewan act was opening up for the guys in their home province. It was a great way of paying it forward.

Once The Sheepdogs took the stage, with the opening notes of “How Late How Long” resonating through the theatre, however, all evidence of the musical frugality of Froese and company was abandoned. It was immediately apparent that the meat and potatoes rock of The Sheepdogs was in full force and the audience responded with resounding cheers. With a signature sound that dips its toes into turgid, well trodden paths of bands like The Guess Who, The Allman Brothers, CCR and The Doobie Brothers, The Sheepdogs are not exactly reinventing a genre. Let’s be real here, they own their influences to the point of near parody but, at the same time, that is what is most endearing about them. They look to the past whilst at the same time make great strides forward into the future. Hell they even named one of their albums Future Nostalgia and people love them for it. People love the classic rock vibes they put forward. This juxtaposition of "what's old is new again" is always an important aspect to this band. 

So, as the Sheepdogs continued to move seamlessly through their set at the Rawlinson, the crowd continued to move and groove along with them. The performance featured blazing guitar riffs, tight vocal harmonies, in the pocket drumming, spot on southern rock keys, and harmonically sound bass playing. Oh yeah, and there’s a trombone that sometimes is unsheathed and brought to the fore. Of particular note, Ewan Currie’s vocals were spot on as well as his guitar noodling. Guitarist Ricky Paquette, who joined the band in 2022 and is the newest member, was entertaining to watch with his metaphorical suitcase full of guitar licks, as he pranced around the stage making his best “guitar faces”. Keyboardist Shamus Currie was also a beast on his instrument. The whole show was one giant “wow”.

In terms of songs, the quintet played a series of "can't leave the building without playing" Sheepdogs classics like “Gonna Be Myself”, “Feeling Good”, “I Don’t Know”, and “Nobody” that were very well received. They also played a gorgeous acoustic cover of the CCR classic “Lodi” and ended the night with a performance of Neil Young’s “Down By the River” that served as a very fitting encore considering that the venue sits on the muddy banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Throughout the whole set, they showed emotional depth and maturity with the ability to bring the heavy but also mellow things out a bit.

At the end of the night, faces were definitely melted and heads had bobbed enough that there may have even been a few folks waking up with “bangovers”  the next morning. The stage presence of this band is undeniable and it was really cool to see a band of their caliber in Prince Albert. Taking things a step further, this band is a must see. The “Backroad Boogie Tour”, then, has been a gift that keeps on giving to those who have had the chance to see it. There are still several shows remaining on this little swing of small town dates. If they come to your town... GO.

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