THERE have been so many concerts delayed by Covid. So what? Well, for Canadian roots band The Sadies, the last year has made all the difference in the world.
When chief songwriter and singer Dallas Good died suddenly of natural causes aged 48 last February, the music world stopped and took notice.
While the band aren’t commercially well known, they epitomise the phrase “musician’s musicians”. After 25 years (averaging 100 concerts a year), everything has now changed. So, where once there would have been four on stage, instead there was a power trio.
Travis Good, Dallas’s brother and lead guitarist, had an awfully large weight to carry. On him fell all singing, rhythm and lead guitar work. Notwithstanding facing up to the empty space alongside him.
Hitting the stage with their characteristic attack and few words, The Sadies’ set drew from many corners of their long career (minus their even more numerous collaborations). Not until the seventh song, Questions I’ve Never Asked, did they take a breath and change the tempo. Prior to that it was a hit-and-run mix of punk rock, spaghetti western, bluegrass and Byrds-like jangle. All rolled into a road-worn groove the Toronto group have long been perfecting.
Good gave it everything – his tall lean frame hunched over his Gretsch guitar, his wild, unkempt hair hanging down, and drips of sweat falling off him as he lost himself in the music (his style in that respect was unchanged from his York concerts in 2006 and 2008 at the Junction and Duchess respectively).
His long-term companions, Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky, quietly filled in some of the missing pieces. While the trio gave muscular, pared-back readings of the songs, you couldn’t help but miss that second guitar, the sibling harmonies and the greater freedom to roam.
“Suddenly it all feels different and very strange,” Good said. The song titles reflected that, including A New Beginning and Starting All Over Again (both from 2013’s Internal Sounds).
Good is an amazing guitar player – and he knows what grabs an audience. From the sped-up Cheat to perhaps his signature tune, Northumberland West, this was a masterclass. A shame there was no acoustic material, although his fiddle made a fleeting appearance for a manic hoedown in Uncle Larry’s Breakdown.
While the fuzzed-up overdrive Leave Me Alone or Another Season Again impressed with their energy, more interesting were the melodies and emotions that shone through when The Sadies slowed down.
This was a short set, by their standards, at 26 songs and 70 minutes, but it felt enough. It’s unclear what the future holds for the Sadies. Their 2022 album, Colder Streams, is probably their best – defying the traditional arc and fall of a music career.
This short tour is to promote that record, but what lies beyond is unclear. Touring and performing with up-and-coming duo Kacy & Clayton recently in the States, a dream scenario would be to simply absorb them, Seventies’ Fleetwood Mac style, into the Sadies.
No One’s Listening, a standout outsider’s cry from the new record and a highlight on Sunday night, is wrong, This is a band that has earned a right to play another year, again.
Review by Paul Rhodes