Dawes Treat Higher Ground To A Little Bit Of Everything (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

During ‘An Evening with Dawes’ at Higher Ground on August 13th, the most striking of any number of memorable moments happened to be very straightforward, intimate ones. After frontman Taylor Goldsmith had performed one composition solo acoustic to begin the second set, his brother Griffin came onstage with keyboardist Lee Pardini and, as the pair flanked the titular leader of the band  with percussion instruments in hand, performed a fervent rendition of “When My Time Comes.” 

It was just one of a number of carefully-interwoven threads within this roundly-played, smoothly paced concert. The Goldsmith sibling’s lead vocal notably hearkened to the new tune that opened this portion of the performance, “None of My Business,” but, more importantly, exhibited a depth of emotion rendered all the more direct by the full-throated singalong he shared with his two bandmates. And that’s not even to mention the simplicity of the composition itself, from the Dawes debut, North Hills, due for imminent reissue (on vinyl only) in recognition of its tenth anniversary. 

In contrast to that early sound of the band, vocal harmonies were noticeably missing in the sound of Dawes through the course of the evening. But, as evidenced by the sinewy rumble of Wylie Gelber’s bass along with the younger Goldsmith’s intricate drumming (the detail of which wasn’t always clear in the sound mix), the group’s moved beyond the confines of its folk-rock roots over the last few years: unfortunately, Goldsmith’s increasingly involved lyrics are often lost in live renditions of newer material like “Living in the Future.” Still, while refrains become redundant on record during such songs as that and the hook-laden pop of “One of Us” (from the woefully- misconceived 2016 album We’re All Gonna Die), the live repetitions transcend the subtlety of the words. 

Taylor Goldsmith does love his electric guitar solos and he’s rarely more animated than during such passages (which is saying something). But he’s also blessed with a skilled counterpart in Trevor Menear who’s own playing, especially when using a slide, underlines the melody, rhythm and/or emotional thrust of numbers such as “A Little Bit of Everything,” Pardini performed a similar and elegant purpose on organ and piano too, including this one where a spotlight literally (and most appropriately) shone down directly on him. 

It’s a testament to Dawes’ willingness to change up the format of their headlining tours that a tune serving as a dramatic focal point of sets in their previous appearances at this venue appeared at mid-point of the first half this night in the Green Mountains. But that only allowed “When My Time Comes” and “All Your Favorite Bands,” near the end of the second half, to serve a similar purpose: bunched together within a handful of selections readily recognized by an audience of dual demographics, those numbers elicited some enthusiastic sing-along from those assembled on the floor.

Which made it somewhat odd there was but a smattering of calls for an encore when the house lights came up. Most likely, though an audience so comfortably ensconced around the venue for two hours plus was perfectly satiated at this point. The strains of late Beatle John Lennon’s “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” over the sound system were thus an apt soundtrack to those departing under a full moon— and not just the ones wearing All Your Favorite Bands themed baseball caps reading “Let’s Party”.

Photos by Ross Mickel

Dawes Setlist Higher Ground Music Hall, South Burlington, VT, USA 2019, Passwords

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