Live: Sheriff @ Prince Public Bar – 19/07/13

Jimi Coelli, Thomas Watson and Callum Routledge — aka local band Sheriff — have been giving value to the undervalued styles of rock music since they formed in 2008. They added a generous dose of horror to 60s and 70s heavy blues rock (a la Them Crooked Vultures) with their debut EP in 2011, and if their show on Friday night is anything to go by, they’ll be just as dark on their second release, which they’ve been recording this month. Sheriff began their 45-minute set with the electronic rasp of a theremin, and never really looked back. Watson’s tireless riffing on guitar, Coelli’s rumbling bass and Routledge’s solid drumming make your organs pound in your ribcage, leaving you no choice but to let the rest of your body join in and giving this child of the 90s a taste of what the Melbourne pub rock scene must have been like in its heyday.Sheriff have also added another string to their bow since their last release: Rockabilly. Halfway through the set, Watson switches to a semi-acoustic and the band shifts to songs with a more upbeat tempo, convincing the audience to get up and dance, and join in the rollicking good time they all seem to be having. Watson, the showman of the trio, stomps over the stage and pub floor as if his limbs are being controlled by a drunk puppeteer, his mane of red hair bouncing around his head while he pulls out all stops to engage the crowd. The six-stringer’s antics included playing guitar with one hand and theremin with the other (with all the vigour and drama of an orchestra conductor), and prowling into the crowd as far as his guitar lead will allow. On the carpet. On the table tops. On people’s shoulders.The interactive nature of Sheriff’s gig peaked at the last two songs, where audience members were given instruments to play along with the band. First a girl in the crowd is given a lagerphone to whack on the ground, before Watson thrusts his guitar into the hands of an audience member during the extended version of the final song “What You Want”. Of all the bands I’ve seen, Sheriff is the most willing to help the crowd make their own fun.It was a shame you couldn’t hear the vocals, except when the other instruments weren’t being played. The musicianship and performance were enough to make the gig worth seeing, but mixing is an area the band will need to work on if they want to become a more professional act.But here’s the bottom line: Sheriff have set their own standards for live shows by going all out to maximise the audience’s entertainment. The gig was free, but Sheriff’s live show is of a quality worth paying for, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they rise up the ranks of the local music scene in years to come. by Alexander Darling

July 24th 2013
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