Having been asked before the show this evening if I knew what the support were like, I guessed that The Sheepdogs were fairly unfamiliar to a fair amount of the crowd at Bristol’s O2. Thankfully our paths have have crossed several times before so I can give them some idea of what to expect, but it was catching the tail end of their impressive set at this year’s Long Road Festival that made the prospect of seeing a more complete set all the more appealing. The Saskatchewan band’s look and sound are deeply entrenched in ’70s Southern Rock and they immediately capture the crowd’s attention from the off with ‘How Late, How Long’ giving a laid back vibe interspersed with some scorching guitar licks. Their set continues to rock and swing; ‘Who’ sits somewhere between CSNY and early ZZ Top blues while the guitar harmonies between Ewan Currie & Ricky Paquette on ‘Southern Dreaming’ shows more than a little nod to The Allman Brothers.
They bring their set to a crescendo with ‘Scarborough Street Fight’ which has an underlying funky feel and also has Shamus Currie swapping his keys for guitar to provide a thrilling extended 4 guitar assault. Driving the message home with ‘Nobody’ The Sheepdogs have made the most of their 45 minutes with a brilliant performance of carefree rock ‘n’ roll that’s sure to have won them plenty of new fans.
Rebecca Lovell is keen to tell us that she’s now been sharing a stage with sister Megan for 18 years, 13 of those now being under the Larkin Poe moniker. You get the feeling though that this is still early on in their journey as they continue on an upward trajectory. Indeed, each of their headline visits to Bristol have seen them playing larger venues, and with good reason. 2018’s Venom & Faith was a chart topper, but their follow on albums ‘Self Made Man’ and the current ‘Blood & Harmony’ see them excel further.
Opener ‘Strike Gold’ has an immediacy to it. It hits you with an energy as the interplay between Rebecca’s guitar and Megan’s lap steel takes no time to bring the song alive. The tempo follows through to ‘Kick The Blues’, and there’s not a soul in the house that can resist being moved to dance, tap their feet or shake their head. It quickly becomes apparent that this is one of those rare gigs that you simply don’t watch, you become a part of it.
Rebecca’s powerful vocals and Megan’s slide guitar give them their instantly recognisable trademark sound whether they’re belting out huge rockers or acoustic numbers. A raw and visceral take on Son House’s ‘Preachin’ Blues’ genuinely sends a shiver down the spine. They follow with an equally impressive ‘She’s A Self Made Man’, a powerful song that charts the ups and downs of their career but has a wider appeal and Rebecca dedicates it to all the women “out there killing it in the music business”.
A mid section gives them an opportunity to ease off the power with an intimate acoustic interlude that has Brent Layman switch to upright bass and drummer Ben Satterlee adding further harmony vocals to a moving ‘Might As Well Be Me’. Glasses are raised to home during ‘Southern Comfort’ and a nostalgic romp through Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock’.
With the acoustic section over the energy is ramped up again with the heavy blues of ‘Holy Ghost Fire’ and a raucous ‘Bad Spell’. The bond between the two sisters is a key component to the magic of Larkin Poe, but they are also excellent performers and as much as they play off each other, they also play off the audience and both are regularly at the front of the stage and Megan in particular frequently crouches on the edge without missing a beat giving those at the front an immersive moment. The set concludes with the blues stomp of ‘Bolt Cutters And The Family Name’ and the band returned to play ‘Deep Stay Down’ as an encore. Any superlatives are duly earned as over the 90 minutes the band put on an incredible performance in what will be one of the highlights from 2023’s live shows.
Kick the Blues
Georgia Off My Mind
She’s a Self Made Man
Back Down South
Blue Ridge Mountains
Might As Well Be Me
Holy Ghost Fire
Wanted Woman – AC/DC
Bolt Cutters & The Family Name
Deep Stays Down