A taste of things to come from one of Australia’s fastest rising indie pop rock sensations.
Damn The Croxton Band Room is a nice venue. It looks like it has recently had a bit of money spent on it and it definitely shows. It’s a spacious venue with a massive stage and is the perfect venue for Sheppard to make their long awaited return to Melbourne.
It’s been three long years for fans since their debut album Bombs Away was released and with album number two imminent there was a pretty good crowd in to catch the Brisbane six-piece.
First up, however, was Lismore twins, No Frills Twins. The pair, Vanessa and Arna, look straight out of the seventies hippy era with bright, colourful clothes and make-up. “We’ve been in Melbourne for a few days op shopping,” Vanessa enthuses as they play through a set which includes a few originals and a few covers to modest applause. Unfortunately, their set lacks any pizzazz and the two look awkward and, at times, uncomfortable on stage and they should look back at this set as a learning curve in which to overcome so they can progress as a band.
Don’t judge me, but I remember watching the UK born high school student Reece Mastin take out the X-Factor Australia title in 2011. There were high wraps on him going far as a pop rock sensation but, for whatever reason, that didn’t eventuate to the extent that many thought. Tonight, he walks on stage with his acoustic guitar and friend Taylor Sheridan (also with a guitar) and the pair put on a set that you just can’t take your eyes away from. Mastin’s voice is flawless. His guitar work is phenomenal and, as Sheppard frontman George Sheppard goes on to say about him, he really is “Jimmy Barnes 2.0.”
Mastin has become almost country in his sound as he and Sheridan play through one of the best acoustic sets I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Sheridan himself takes over lead vocals for a couple of his own tracks, ‘Friends Like Me and Good Time’. The pair even includes a unique cover of the Bee Gees classic, ‘Stayin’ Alive’.
Mastin’s originals in ‘Heartache Blues’ and ‘Problem’ give us a great insight into his forthcoming album which certainly seems like it’ll be well worth a listen once it’s released.
After a set like that, Sheppard is going to have to be at the absolute top of the game and there was never any doubt of that not happening. From the moment the band walk on stage all eyes are on them and, even though their first twenty or so minutes is all new tracks from their forthcoming album, every single person is bopping and dancing along. Siblings George and Amy Sheppard‘s (donning a fan made Bombs Away jacket) voices work seamlessly together and by the time they get to ‘Let Me Down Easy’, everyone is singing along.
What’s surprising is Sheppard use this show and, presumably, the tour, as almost an album preview show and, based on what we’re hearing, this new album is going to be one not to miss. It certainly doesn’t bother the crowd one bit that they don’t know half of the songs being played which further shows how fantastic and talented this band, which also includes George and Amy’s sister Emma on bass, have become.
This tour may be called the ‘Keep Me Crazy’ tour Sheppard keep us waiting a long while to hear said track but when we do, it’s one of the many great moments from an almost flawless set.
For most of the set, fans are calling out to the band to play their classic, ‘Geronimo’. Unsurprisingly, they keep us waiting before they play it to bring their all-to-short hour long set to an end. However, they quickly return to the stage for their encore. George explains that they are Justin Beiber fans and wanted to cover one of his songs when they supported him recently but, for obvious reasons, they couldn’t so they use the time to cover his recent hit ‘Let Me Love You’. Which (I have to admit) is much better than the original.
‘Halfway To Hell’, the final track from debut album Bombs Away, brings it all to an end and Sheppard leaves the stage with the promise of returning once their new album is released. For all of us here tonight, that can’t come soon enough.