Dawes bring West Coast sophistication to the Kazimier, Getintothis’ Nick Hilton is suitably impressed.
LA folk rockers Dawes can boast associations with some of the most respected American popular music artists to emerge from the 1970s.
They performed as backing band to Jackson Browne, who returned the compliment by adding vocals to a song on their 2011 album Nothing Is Wrong, on which Benmont Tench, keyboard player with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, contributes to several tracks. Robbie Robertson, front man for The Band, also asked the four piece to play alongside him last year in his first live performances since 1976.
So it wasn’t such a surprise to find the audience at the Kazimier might have been a little longer in the tooth than the regular crowd when Dawes played the Liverpool date of their UK tour. Some in the audience may own the original pressings of albums by Jackson Browne and The Band, made before the twentysomethings in Dawes were even a glint in their parents’ eyes.
Dawes began as a post-punk band then decided to embrace the music that sprang from the American West Coast four decades ago.
If the change of direction set an unusual course, they are making the journey with some aplomb. Dawes succeed in being both old-fashioned and musically street savvy at the same time.
Their set at the Kazimier left you in no doubt why Robertson rates them so highly. He told Rolling Stone magazine: ‘They are at the top of their game.‘
The majority of the songs in their set were drawn from Nothing Is Wrong and its 2009 predecessor North Hills.
The uncomplicated arrangements of the recorded versions require little adaptation for the stage. Well-honed, confident musicianship was to the fore.
Songwriter, lead singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith is the creative force behind the band. Young brother Griffin Goldsmith provides the percussion that helps the music roll and sway on top of Wylie Gelber‘s basslines while Tay Strathearn adds texture from piano and organ.
The tunes, mostly midtempo, were carried by Taylor’s pleading vocals and melodic lead guitar. He allowed himself a brief moment of guitar hero indulgence midway through the set but for the most part ensured the structure of the songs didn’t lose out to the performance.
Two albums into the band’s evolution there still may be a tendency for some of the material to lack a little light and shade, in spite of the strong hooks. Several numbers built towards anthemic quality, not least Fire Away, When My Time Comes from the North Hills album and the rousing closer, Time Spent in Los Angeles.
A couple of numbers from an album to be recorded in the autumn sounded more introspective and perhaps the new collection will add a little variety to the Dawes‘ palette.
There was little concession here to the West Coast staples of rippling acoustic guitars, harmony vocals or rootsy injections.
These were provided, at the start of the evening, by the support band from England’s West Coast – well, Liverpool actually. The Grande‘s short set turned into a little gem.
They perform and record as a six or seven piece but stripped down to a trio on the tight confines of the Kazimier‘s cluttered stage.
The Grande were confident enough to woo the early evening crowd with several ballads, sympathetically arranged around acoustic, lap steel and electric guitar, Ben Sherwen‘s bright lead vocals and harmonies that fell smoothly into place. They were warmly received.
If the new enthusiasm for 70s Americanna continues, then both bands deserve to be playing to larger audiences in the future.
Pictures by Matthew Thomas/Bido Lito!