A year after backing Neko Case on her revelatory live album The Tigers Have Spoken, The Sadies have recorded their own career-defining live set, In Concert Volume One, featuring guest appearances by Case, Kelly Hogan, Garth Hudson, Gary Louris, Jon Spencer, Jon Langford, and members of Blue Rodeo and The Deadly Snakes. Recorded during two four-hour shows in Toronto earlier this year, In Concert contains songs by the band's guests—including a mini-set by The Good Brothers, the Canadian country family act that sired Sadies frontmen Dallas and Travis Good—and a good mix of The Sadies' twangy instrumentals and trippy roots-pop. From the cameos to the kaleidoscopic Americana, In Concert is an ambitious attempt to position The Sadies as a 21st-century version of The Band, making their own Last Waltz. And it just about works.
The only major knock against In Concert is that the sequencing doesn't always flow as fluidly as it should. Given the breadth of The Sadies' discography and the band's persistent fascination with history, there's no reason why it couldn't string these songs together to tell a little story, bridging the past and the present. But that's a minor complaint, especially given the way In Concert picks up steam as it goes, peaking on the second disc, when nearly everyone the Goods have ever worked with take the stage, knock out a killer track, then make way for someone else. Case duets with Hudson on The Band's classic "Evangeline," and Langford leads the whole crew in a romp through Mekons' rock 'n' roll homage "Memphis, Egypt." If nothing else, The Sadies can take pride in finally bringing The Band and Mekons together, with themselves standing tall in between.