Editor’s note: Dawes will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 at Cargo Concert Hall in the Whitney Peak Hotel. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are $28.50 and include a download of the band’s new album. Below is a review of the Dawes concert at Lake Tahoe last January.
A blizzard was knocking on the door of Lake Tahoe in January 2017, but fans who braved the storm to see Los Angeles outfit Dawes play at MontBleu Theatre will remember the night long after the snow has melted and the tequila has run out.
Dawes was in town to support the release of its latest album, “We’re All Gonna Die,” an effort that sees the band taking the largest sonic step in its career. The group’s initial Laurel Canyon vibe has evolved into a more complex sound that has touches of indie aesthetics and power-pop sensibilities. A lot of bands go through growing pains when the music begins to deviate from its origins. In some ways, Dawes is the inverse, where four albums of similar sounding music had become a little routine for both fans and musicians. “We’re All Gonna Die” has brought some excitement back to the band and on Friday night Taylor Goldsmith (guitar), Griffin Goldsmith (drums), Wylie Gelber (bass), Lee Pardini (keyboards) and touring partner Trevor Menear (guitar) gave everyone reason to be thrilled at the direction Dawes is heading.
The band introduced itself to Lake Tahoe with “One of Us,” the lead track on the new album. It was big and fuzzy in the vein of Cheap Trick with a succinct solo from Taylor Goldsmith that leaped out of his amps like a kid on Christmas morning. The new song sounded good on the band, like an old friend in a sharper, new wardrobe.
Dawes it filled the hour and a half set with eight songs from the new album. “Quitter” rolled over the crowd like ominous thunderclouds in the desert, driven by Gelber’s rumbling bass and Menear’s whistling guitar, and “Roll With The Punches” slunk along with a crunchy riff that brightened for Goldsmith’s soaring chorus. With its shuttering rhythm and slack-jawed tango between the hazy bassline and wah-wah slide, “When The Tequila Runs Out” is probably the furthest departed from Dawes’ original sound, but it got the most people to jump from their seats and join in dancing along. The bottom line is the new album has some great songs and they stacked up well when presented with the highlights in the band’s past catalog.
What was probably the most rewarding aspect of the night is how many times the band managed to make exciting musical choices. Dawes has been characterized as a contemporary embodiment of the California singer-songwriter rockers such as Jackson Browne or The Eagles. Not necessarily misguided, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. There were a handful of moments that certainly made this longtime fan gasp with excitement, “What was that!?”
“Coming Back To A Man” was transformed from a brisk, upbeat ballad on record to a country-fried rocker with a Cajun inspired flatpicking jam. In a handsome reworking of songs, Dawes turned on a dime after the first verse of “Time Spent In Los Angeles” to an inspired run through “Most People,” which featured a delightful solo from Goldsmith. Then there was the moment before “Things Happen” when the musicians reigned in a cacophonous wall of sound to a single, elegant frequency that pierced my soul like a neon beam of sound and caused a brief period of speechlessness within me. It’s stuff that keeps you coming back for more, stuff that makes live music essential.
Watching the band groove on the big-country, A.M. radio jam for “Right Angle,” it occurred to me there was something that connected Dawes to a band like The Eagles in addition to a similar sound. In a Rolling Stone interview on the anniversary of founder Glenn Frey’s death, Randy Newman mentioned he hated when people criticized The Eagles as being too slick. “If you’re good, you’re good, and they are really good. It’s not easy to do what they make sound easy,” Newman said.
The same can be said of Dawes. For how resonant Taylor Goldsmith’s lyrics are and how easily the group’s melodies slip into your ear, there is an immense amount of talent in the band that has been weaved into an impressive synergy. Taylor phrases his solos gorgeously, Pardini has a craftsman’s touch on the keyboards, Gelber has a creative eye for rhythm and Griffin holds it all together in his back-pocket style of drumming. It was obvious Friday night Dawes has reached a new level of musicianship that makes them one of the most exciting bands to see right now. It’s been great to see how far they’ve come and even greater to think about just how far they’ll go.
Related story: Dawes walking on air on its greatest tour. LINK