Team GDW have been following the Canadian music scene for several years now, yet every once in a while it seems to take forever for a ‘major’ artist/band to jump onto our radar.  One such band are The Sadies, who first came to our attention a few years back upon hearing “The First Five Minutes” on CBC Sonica.  We’ve since found a few of their albums, but they sat on the backburner for a while due to our not being overly familiar with their distinct progressive sound.

Fast forward to the most recent Blue Rodeo show that we attended, and our introduction to the Sadies hit us like a ton of bricks.  With just a standard 35-minute opening set, this Toronto four-piece act blew us away with their highly energetic brand of neo-rockabilly surf-rock.  It was a delight to hear live versions of new tracks from the recently released “Northern Passages” album, and we developed a musical itch for this band that would need to be scratched very soon.

Within a few days of returning home from Ontario, the computer-savvy half of GDW discovered that The Sadies were holding a release party for the new album in Toronto, with tickets limited to just 300 seats.  So, we bought tickets and headed north once more for a full 2-set evening (plus 2 encores) with The Sadies at the historic “Royal Cinema” in Little Italy.  Built in 1939, this classic movie house was the perfect environment for the band to shine, and the show proved to be both energetic and entertaining for the 2+ hours of live music.

With the added benefit of having front row seats, we witnessed brothers Dallas and Travis Good, along with bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky, take the stage to a lively ovation, and kick off the show with “Lay Down Your Arms” (one of many instrumentals that this band weave into their setlist with great transition and ease).  Noting the presence of a professional film crew at either side of the stage, Dallas quickly made the audience aware that they were shooting a video for the new material this evening, and to expect to hear a few songs more than once.  With that in mind, the band kicked straight into “Another Season Again” from “Northern Passages,” and added “Through Strange Eyes” later in the first set (both songs would be repeated during the second set – so one of these will likely have the music video produced from this show).

The Sadies took the opportunity to perform five new songs during the show, but also delighted fans new and old with a strong setlist of music that spanned their entire career.  Of course, with the group’s penchant for shorter songs, the list naturally exceeded 35 tracks, and no particular album was favored over the course of the night.  Highlights from the first set included cuts from “Darker Circles” (“Another Year Again” and “Cut Corners”), “Internal Sounds” (“So Much Blood” and “Story 19”), and “Favourite Colours” (“Northumberland West”).

It is always difficult to select tracks that stand out from the rest, especially with a band as talented as this, but for me, there were three tunes in the first set that grabbed my attention.  Firstly, with a strong social statement, “God Bless the Infidels” demonstrates the social conscience that the brothers Good bring to their songwriting.  Dallas Good sets a wonderful slower pace with this track to really punch home his message, and is accompanied with some great musicianship from the rest of the band.  Secondly, it was a pleasure to hear Travis Good crank out the Frazer/Owens penned track “Wearin’ That Loved-On Look,” complete with the Sadies’ twist that gives this one more of a Beatles/British Invasion sound as opposed to the popular Elvis Presley version.  And thirdly, Dallas and Travis brought their father Bruce onto the stage to perform the classic “Good Family Album” track “Stay All Night.” Travis pulled out his violin for this number, while Bruce added vocals and some harmonica, much to the delight of the crowd.

After a brief intermission, The Sadies continued where they left off, and once again did not miss a beat with the selections offered.  Opening with a strong rendition of “The First Five Minutes,” the set would include tracks from “Precious Moments” (“Cheat” and “Dying Is Easy”), “Stories Often Told” (“A#1” and “Tiger Tiger”), and “New Seasons” (“Sunset To Dawn” and “Anna Leigh”).

Once again, it was a challenge to pull stand-out moments from the second set, but a couple of songs in particular went over very well with the crowd.  Firstly, the brothers would once again invite a guest to join them, with their mother Margaret taking lead vocals for the crowd favorite “Higher Power.”  Travis again accompanied with violin during this track.  Secondly, and perhaps my personal favorite, was the combination of “Stories Often Told” and “10 More Songs” (probably my favorite track from “Darker Circles”).  Both songs have a unique sound in their own rights, but to combine both into a medley certainly left me thirsty for much more.

The crowd of 300 applauded like a crowd of 3000 at the close of the set, and The Sadies returned for two encore performances to thank their fans.  The encore was certainly unique, and included “16 Mile Creek,” “Why Be So Curious,” and “Strange Birds.”  For a little over two hours, the Royal Cinema rocked heartily on College Street, and the very satisfied crowd eventually made their way to the exits.

Other highlights that I feel must be mentioned here from the show include the little things.  Bruce and Margaret Good appeared outside the main doors prior to the venue being open, and whilst waiting to be admitted inside, received appreciative gestures and comments from the crowd.  Travis Good also casually walked down the street to the venue before the performance, in full concert gear, and happily told the crowd that he could not wait to see everybody inside for the show.

I would personally like to acknowledge and thank the stagehand who kindly and generously handed me the setlist as we were leaving the cinema. And while it is never taken for granted that band members will have time to greet fans after the show, we are incredibly appreciative of the time given to us by Sean Dean, and for his willingness to autograph everything that we handed him.  Team GDW certainly left the venue on a high note, and are still in awe at how amazing the band is in a live environment.  If you ever, ever, have the opportunity to see The Sadies in concert, you would be incredibly foolish to miss out.

~ M

Visit The Sadies’ website.

Listen to “Northern Passages” on Spotify.