One word: Outstanding!
Given that it is only January, it may not be saying much to class this as my favourite gig of 2016… but it is going to take some effort to top it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was still up there come the end of year round up in December.
The evening started with The Sheepdogs. The one word I’d use to describe The Sheepdogs is: hirsute. There was a serious amount of facial hair ranging from full on bushy to scraggy and stubbly… not to mention the tache-tastic Shamus Currie (keyboards). The band are from Canada but there is more than a touch of Americana about them; not least in the checked shirts, shoelace tie and a belt buckle that Howard Wolowitz would be proud of. The music showed a similar influence with a mixture of blues, jazz and country music that reminded me of The Allman Brothers. Musically, the one word description would be: polished. Polished like you would polish an antique table to bring out the colour and texture of the wood.
They played eleven songs (see the setlist) and were well received by the Glaswegian crowd. The lead vocalist (Ewan Currie – brother to the keyboad player) had a great voice and was an impressive guitar player to boot. Jimmy Bowskill, also on guitar worked well with Ewan, sometimes echoing him note for note and sometimes trading solos. Ryan Gullen (bass) and Sam Corbett (drums) were also good and all five sang harmonies making a rich vocal sound. Towards the end of the set, Shamus got up from behind the keyboards and took up a trombone. As band launched into “Help Us All”, Shamus treated us to some trombone solos. Unusual… but fun! The penultimate song was “Feeling Good” and it was probably the one that most appealed to me as it was a bit grungier than the other songs. The closing number, however, was clearly a fan favourite. A small group had been calling out for “I Don’t Know” from about the middle of the set and when the band finally delivered, it is fair to say that they got more than a little excited. Much jumping around and bellowing of lyrics accompanied the song. With that crowd pleaser, The Sheepdogs left the stage.
The Temperance Movement
I’ve already suggested “outstanding” as a one word summary. I’m tempted just to add a bunch of synonyms to fill the review with superlatives but I will try and fill in some detail around the praise.
From the moment he came on stage, Phil was jumping with excitement and energy. His facial expressions were animated. His arms gesticulated widely. His fingers twitched. His movements were somewhere between a rhythmic Mick Jagger and a frenetic David Byrne. As I describe this, I realise that it sounds awful… but it wasn’t. It was magnificent. There is a certain, indefinable something that distinguishes a frontman from a mere lead singer. Phil is clearly a frontman. His “dancing” may contribute to this status but it is more than that. The rest of the band are fantastic but my attention was focussed on Phil for almost the whole concert. He commanded the stage. He commanded my attention. He didn’t just sing the songs, he performed them. And on the subject of singing, I love the way Phil’s voice sounds: hitting all the notes with just the right amount of gravel. A great frontman, however, does not a group make. A group should work as more than the sum of its parts and in this respect, The Temperance Movement delivers big time.
The band took to the stage and launched into “Three Bulleits” – the opening track from White Bear, the current single, and a belter of a song! Right from the off, the audience were with them. Jumping, singing, cheering. Next up was another song from the new album, “Oh Lorraine” which was followed by “Midnight Black” from their first album. This was the pattern for the rest of the evening: songs from their new album interspersed with material from the eponymous debut. Check the setlist where you will see they played every track from the new album and most of the first. They clearly have faith in the new material… and rightly so. Their new album is a stoater and the songs worked really well in concert. Two of the tracks, which I liked on the album, sounded even better live. “The Sun And The Moon Roll Around Too Soon” felt much darker live than I remember it being on the album and “A Pleasant Peace I Feel” has a touch of the psychedelic, as well as a military-style snare drum and a chiming guitar sound over a throbbing bass that came alive when performed.
Other highlights for me included “Pride”, a relatively relaxed and gentle song from their first album which grows into a monster and included a great solo from new boy Matt White. Clearly he had overworked his guitar during “Pride” because part way through the next song, a roadie came on stage, picked up Matt’s whammy bar from the floor and offered to reattach it mid song. Needless to say, Matt waved him away and kept playing. Also during “Pride”, Phil jumped into the pit in front of the stage to a roar of approval from the crowd. “Smouldering” featured some great harmonies (and bass) from Nick Fyffe as well as some duelling guitars from Matt and Paul Sayer. “White Bear” saw Phil take up an acoustic guitar and both Matt and Paul playing slide solos with Matt’s slide guitar towards the end of the song sounding particularly impressive. As I write this, I realise that pretty much everything they played was a highlight but I have to mention a couple more. At the end of “Get Yourself Free”, the stage was plunged into darkness momentarily. Then, a white spotlight picked out Paul as he plays the opening riff to “Only Friend” and the already enthusiastic crowd went mental. This was followed by “Take It Back” where Phil produced a harmonica and the Glasgow crowd, “Woah-oh-ho-hoed” along at full volume.
All too soon, they reached the end of the set but after a brief wait, and chanting, clapping and whistling from the Glaswegian audience, the band returned to the stage and treated us to three more songs. The encore closed with “Lovers And Fighters” which has a quiet, largely acoustic, opening that built to a phenomenal finish.
Have I raved about this concert enough yet? I loved it! To finish as I started: outstanding and stupidly brilliant!