Dawes stopped through New York City on Monday to play an outdoor concert at Central Park's Summerstage. The Los Angeles-based band released an excellent album earlier this year called All Your Favorite Bands. The album received a 5 star review from the NY Daily News, and a 4.5 star review from us at Zumic.
The things that make Dawes great were on full display throughout the evening. Taylor Goldsmith's intricate songwriting makes for excellent records, and also for exciting concerts. His upbeat anthems avoid played out clichés while consistently ringing true. Vocally, he's a genius at matching signature melodies with twisting and turning narratives about the struggles of everyday life, giving the audience something to latch onto. As usual, he was singing and playing his heart out for a crowd that was transfixed by his talents and occasionally singing along.
Of course, there's a lot more to Dawes than Taylor Goldsmith. His brother, Griffin, is a powerhouse drummer who also contributes backing vocals. On bass, Wylie Gelber plays lines that keep the groove chugging along while locking in with everyone else in the band. Tay Strathairn is a keyboard player who takes the band to the next level on some of their best songs. As a unit, they're a spectacular rock band capable of getting a big sound.
The newest member of the band is Duane Betts, the son of Dickey Betts (a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band who wrote, played guitar, and sang on classic tracks like "Ramblin' Man" and "Blue Sky"). Duane was officially added to the Dawes touring band this year. In a recent interview with Jambands.com, Taylor Goldsmith said:
Well, he’s on the stage with us. He didn’t play on the record. He kind of came into it after that. He’s been a friend for a long time. But yeah, when we’re onstage and I say, “Hey, we’re Dawes, thanks for coming,” and he’s standing on the stage, you know? I mean, who knows what the future holds – we don’t wanna put that kind of pressure on him or anything. But right now, yeah, he’s in the band.
There is an undeniable chemistry between Goldsmith and Betts as the two traded leads throughout the night. Duane's solos were very tasteful and he provided solid backing when he wasn't out front. Duane is in the spitting image of his father, and he sounds like him too. Those early Allman Brothers records created the psychedelic Southern rock sound while bringing the focused modal jazz of Miles Davis and John Coltrane into a rock setting. This wasn't just noodling around, it was amped up sonic fireworks.
One of the interesting things about this show was that there was a lot more wild energy than you might expect from listening to Dawes' albums. The band had a combustible quality, much like Neil Young & Crazy Horse. As the five guys on stage were rocking out, it felt like it could all fall apart at any moment. But it never did.
It wasn't a perfect concert. Several of the songs felt rushed, and Griffin Goldsmith might have been guilty of overplaying the drums. He was doing sort of a Mitch Mitchell thing, throwing in jazz licks and syncopations constantly, which was impressive but prevented the band from achieving the delicate vibe they're capable of. By the same token, I felt like the light show was too busy. As the band jammed out, lights moved around and changed colors in ways that didn't seem to compliment the music, and actually detracted from it.
On the bright side, the songs sounded great. "Things Happen," "Right On Time," "Somewhere Along The Way," "Don't Send Me Away," "I Can't Think About It Now" and "All Your Favorite Bands" are great tunes from the new album that played very well. The band mixed in older songs like "Time Spent In Los Angeles," "Bear Witness," "Most People," "A Little Bit of Everything," "When My Time Comes," and "From A Window Seat" and the setlist flowed very nicely. This is a band with a great catalog, and they're showing no signs of slowing down.
With the addition of Betts, Dawes are embracing the jamband tradition more than ever. It's something that suits them, and there were lots of great moments during instrumental passages where the musicianship was truly outstanding. Moments reminded me of Billy Joel and The Beatles at their best, but it was still very creative and uniquely Dawes. It will be interesting to see how this develops over time.
For Dawes' latest music, news, and tour dates, check out their Zumic artist page.
Also, be sure to check out our review and photos of First Aid Kit's Central Park Summerstage show, which included an appearance from Taylor Goldsmith.
All photos by Francesco Marano, © Zumic 2015