Positioning can have a lot to do with a live show; luckily L.A.-based band Dawes are in a better position now than they’ve ever been. No longer the “opening band,” given 30-45 minutes to hook an audience, Dawes’ nearly two hour venture in Nashville Sunday night marked their first time headlining at the Cannery Ballroom.
This is new for Dawes. While the band has been developing a growing buzz since their 2009 debut album, North Hills, up to this point they’ve spent most of the last three years supporting bigger acts like M. Ward and Mumford and Sons. Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith even joked that he had to keep reminding himself that he didn’t have to introduce his band after every song, and mentioned that he was relieved that people had showed up for the show.
But from inside the Cannery, Dawes certainly felt like a headlining band, and they played like one too. Having the luxury of a longer set, Goldsmith and co. showed fans that they are more than capable of stretching out musically. Songs like “Peace in the Valley,” became vehicles for long jams, and nearly every solo was a much different take than on the record. Because they could afford to, the band took some chances, and it paid off.
And while they certainly oozed energy and rocked hard, Goldsmith’s poignant lyrics and impassioned voice were the real star of the show. Goldsmith, like his guitar, sings his songs as he feels them at that moment, even if it changes the context of some lyrics or the overall tone of a song. “A Little Bit Of Everything” has become Goldsmith’s own personal vocal playground. Lyrics like “If you can give yourself to someone, then you should,” can sound persuasive some nights, and sarcastic on others. Fortunately for Goldsmith, he doesn’t need to stick to the script. He knows his words stand up, and he isn’t afraid to bend them to his will.
The band also played some new material from their third album, which they will go to work on after this tour; and from the sound of it, it has the potential to be great.
So yes, being in a different position has significantly altered Dawes’ live show. But all of the things that are great about them are still there: the rousing sing-a-longs, the expressive instrumentals, the emotional involvement. The band has simply gained a deeper, more colorful palette. Things might look different from higher up for Dawes, but it seems like a position they’re ready for.