Stealing Sheep: Edge Hill Arts Centre, Ormskirk
With Stealing Sheep debuting new material in a show named Big Wows, Graham Smillie finds it an appropriate title for a genuinely dazzling show.
With a name like Big Wows, this show has a lot to live up to before we even start. But this is Stealing Sheep, so there’s nothing to worry about.
It is billed as “a preview of some of their new album tracks ahead of release and experience a bespoke new show incorporating synchronised light production, collage, costume and projections“.
They didn’t lie; it’s all this and more.
This isn’t your regular concert. It feels like something more. Despite the above description it is, for all intents and purposes, an art piece.
The first two-thirds of the show begins in typical Stealing Sheep fashion, with the three piece standing still on revolving plinths at the front of the stage displaying their new design of lycra bodysuit.
Following a brief flirtation with dark colours, with them often being dressed all in black, we are delighted to report that they are back to bright colours, which does much more to illustrate their kaleidoscopic music.
With that introduction over they take their places on stage between an array of odd looking lights. For the first time, we see Lucy sitting behind a full drum kit, with Emily on bass at the back, and Becky to the front on keyboards.
The show, once it begins properly, is a dazzling mix of performance, dance, inventive lighting and, of course, music.
They frontload the show with new songs that are thankfully every bit as good as the old favourites; one great song after another, all beautifully sung and harmonised. If this performance is anything to go by, the new album could be their greatest recorded achievement yet.
Each member takes turns at lead vocals, which pierces through the art on display, and creates a feeling of unity, family and community at the show’s heart. This is while the whole band takes part in heavily choreographed movements, that easily dwarf the music of a lesser band.
The venue is a bit of an odd one, but gives a wonderful view of the whole show from raised theatre seating which really gives you the chance sit back and appreciate the whole production.
It is flawless. The show flows seamlessly, a blend of slow and up-tempo songs each one presented with an attention to detail that most bands around at the moment can only dream of.
They end the show with a few tunes from 2015’s Not Real album.
There’s very little time wasting, save for a brief breather before the encore, and the appreciative audience laps up Sequence, Deadlock and the title track. The performance ends as you would expect; a standing ovation with the band on revolving plinths waving and taking the customary snapshot.
Stealing Sheep are one of the featured acts at this year’s Sound City, as part of a larger project called paying tribute to Suffragettes.
In response to the centenary of suffrage, they will be celebrating women with a performance inspired by the suffragette movement at the festival, as momentum continues to build for equality for all in music.
Co-commissioned by Edge Hill University and Manchester-based creative music charity Brighter Sound, Stealing Sheep’s Suffragette Tribute will bring together female drummers and percussionists from the Liverpool area with design, AV and production students to create a marching band and procession featuring brand new music – everything will be inspired by women, equality and empowerment.
Pictures by Brian Sayle