Sheeps, Napier New Zealand, 2022


4th November 2022
Paisley Stage, Napier, New Zealand.

Review by Rob Harbers. Photography by Andrew Caldwell.

Te Whanganui-A-Tara’s Sheeps, a somewhat enigmatic combo that plays only sporadically, made some new fans in their appearance at Napier’s Paisley Stage. With the release of their debut album imminent (after only six years of existence – it doesn’t pay to rush these things!), they display a lot of promise to become another star in the firmament of Aotearoa’s independent music scene.

Support in this venture was provided by Hawkes Bay’s own De Lune and Dos Ovni. I only caught the end of De Lune’s set, but what I did see showed her to be on fine form, after something of a hiatus from the stage. Dos Ovni continue to impress me, making a lot of beautiful noise for such a small unit – the band consisting of only Liv Strawbridge on drums and Deanne Beckett on guitar and ethereal vocals. Music to close your eyes to and be carried away on a sea of sound!

Which brings us to the main event, the aforementioned Sheeps. Formed in 2016 by brothers Dean and Simon Blackwell, they espouse a manifesto revolving around control of the masses, making us all cogs in the machine. This is accompanied by a complex and layered wall of sound, in and out of which swirl swathes of guitar heroics. All delivered by the brothers on guitar (and vocals in Dean’s case), along with Grace Baker on 3rd(!) guitar, rounded out with the contributions of Blain Fitzpatrick on bass and Thomas Friggens drumming his heart out, the multiple elements coming together in service of the muse, and providing much entertainment to those present.

Unfortunately, falling firmly in to the “It’s not them, it’s me” category, I was in too fatigued a state to truly capture the wondery on display – the glamorous life of a roving critic, indeed! But what I was able to take on board, along with the enthusiastic reception given by the rest of the crowd, has me wanting to see them again (when a little more conscious!) and to recommend them to anyone in search of complex, well-played music that rewards concentrated listening. But at the same time has enough of a surface-level attraction to draw in more casual listeners.

The depth of the sound, it must be said, was occasionally to the detriment of full appreciation – once or twice I could see that Simon was squeezing out guitar histrionics, but they couldn’t be heard particularly well amidst the densely structured soundscapes. Or perhaps my ears were just too tired? But this is a minor quibble, in the broader context of the accomplished performance.

In any case, this was another chapter in the long story of great gigs hosted by the Paisley crew, and the band are well worth catching, as elusive as they are – and I look forward to the album!

Were you there at Paisley Stage for this great rock show? Or have you seen Sheeps perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!


Sheeps - Setlist

Note: Ambient Light was provided passes to review and photograph this concert. As always, this has not influenced the review in any way and the opinions expressed are those of Ambient Light’s only. .

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