Indie pop sensations rock San Francisco

By Adina J. Pernell


It’s been over two years since indie pop group Sheppard’s award-winning album “Bombs Away,” gained a spot on the American top 40 charts on the steam of their pulsing anthem-styled hit “Geronimo,”  staying on the Billboard Hot 100 list for an impressive 21 weeks.


Still coasting on the high note of opening for the Australian and New Zealand legs of Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” tour with EDM darling DJ Martin Garrix in March, they headlined San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop, as the first stop in their “Edge of Night” tour on Nov. 13.


The tour which is slated for only a handful of select cities is named after a single of the same name that the multi-platinum group released the on June 23. “Edge of Night” is one of three singles released this year in lieu of the band’s highly anticipated sophomore release that is set to come out in 2018.


The bright, mermaid-like allure of siblings Amy Sheppard (vocals) and Emma Sheppard (bass guitar), whose wildly colored hair and clothes might have reminded you of sexier, chic versions of Rainbow Brite characters made for a striking combination. The school-boy charm of George Sheppard (vocals) who seemed a little more indie rock than pop when he shone his beaming grin at the audience, gave the trio a carefree ambience.


The three offered up quite a visual statement as they performed – one akin to the  the psychedelic, paisley lights that swirled against the backdrop of their stage. Their sound was effortlessly framed by guitarist Jay Bovino, who along with Amy and George Sheppard is one of the band’s songwriters. Fellow guitarist Michael Butler and drummer Dean Gordon made up the strong musical component that completed the band.


The group opened the concert with the vibrant energy their audiences have come to expect. And it was clear that they have die-hard fans here in the San Francisco bay area.


“It’s good to be back!” said Amy Sheppard speaking fondly of San Francisco.


“This is our home man! This is our home!” George reiterated.


The first song Sheppard performed was the band’s most recent single “Coming Home,” released just days before the show on November 10. George’s powerhouse vocals really delivered a punch and the band managed to capture an infectious 80’s-esque rhythm that flowed perfectly alongside Amy’s effortless harmonies.


For those who haven’t heard this song, it has a positive vibe that would be at home on any pop music lover’s feel-good playlist; right in Sheppard’s artistic wheelhouse.


On the next song, “Love Me Now,” a breezy reggae inspired song that flirted with a 90’s ska rock style that might have made Gwen Stefani proud, Amy and Emma Sheppard, jumped energetically up and down. George and Amy passed out lyrics on the sweet melody like it was Halloween candy, and the audience ate it up – hanging on every wink from the Sheppard sisters be-dazzled eyes and swaying back and forth to the beat.


Despite all the fun and antics though, it was clear by this point in the show that George Sheppard was having issues with his voice.


“I’m deathly ill,” George who had a flair for the dramatic, had announced just before tackling the vocals on the disco influenced “Edge of Night,” and added. “We were going to cancel the show.”


He cleared his throat with determination and delivered on the band’s intention to go ahead, and then gave a decent performance of the headlining song. “I don’t believe in lip-syncing,” he announced.


The rest of the show he sang conservatively. “It’s always fun singing with a disease.” he joked darkly about the bug he caught and took a swig from a bottle of lemon-honey water, before singing a song appropriately titled “Choke.”


Half-way through the show, it became apparent though, that no amount of bluster could get George Sheppard all the way through. Luckily, he was saved by Amy’s bell-like vocals as she sang a tender melody full of longing and romance called “Live For You,” then followed up that stellar performance with “The fizzy and light” and “Call Me Up” that featured mostly her vocals.


At one point, Bovino took over background male vocals and Amy moved to the keyboard while George danced energetically to the music. Just minutes before he had congratulated the group’s opening act Hailey Knox.


Raspy guffaw and all, George had the crowd in the palm of his hand. That coupled with Amy’s sunny smile of optimism and Emma’s calm stance as she strummed her bass guitar resonated with the audience.


One man repeatedly screamed “AMY! EMMA!” at the top of his lungs. Another concert-goer had come all the way from Portland, Oregon to see the band and was thrilled just to be able to shake George’s hand.


Another  highlight of the evening was when George bravely covered the 70’s rock band Stealers Wheel’s hit song “Stuck in the Middle With You,” to which the band added their own stamp of originality.


Someone shouted, “We love you!” to the band “I love you!” George shouted back. It was hard to find fault with Sheppard’s creative drive and with an otherwise flawless execution of a classic remake.


Even though towards the end of the concert it was apparent that lemon and honey could only do so much, the crowd was deeply appreciative. They performed admirably well considering.


“We just flew in [from Australia] yesterday morning,” said Amy. “We’re a little worse for wear.” “But we’re doing it!” yelled George, with exuberance.


The band managed to party their way through to the end as they played “Keep Me Crazy,” a song released on March 10, right around the time they conquered Bieber’s tour.


When the band closed with the explosive energy of the tune that put them on the map, “Geronimo,” the crowd was more than satisfied with their efforts. And if this “Edge of Night” tour is any indication of Sheppard’s longevity, this is just the beginning for them.


Musicians of "Sheppard." Photo courtesy of Peter Brew-Bevan.
Musicians of “Sheppard.” Photo courtesy of Peter Brew-Bevan.
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