Friday night at the Wiltern Theatre was somewhat of a homecoming for the L.A. based band Dawes. To mark the occasion of their first show back home in over a year, they were also joined on stage by pal and prolific guitarist Blake Mills for the entire evening.
And what an amazing performance Dawes put on for the capacity crowd, rolling through almost a 20-song setlist that clocked in at just over two hours. From the band’s snap-tight harmonies to the dueling guitar solos of Mills and frontman Taylor Goldsmith, Dawes left it all on the table.
But first, Charleston, S.C., duo Shovels and Rope served as a powerful opening act. The husband-and-wife team offered stripped-down rockers that were as fiery as they were sweet. Cary Ann Hearst’s voice recalls Dolly Parton at her spunkiest, while Michael Trent was a sonic hammer whether on a spare drum kit or guitar.
Both members of the duo switched instruments midway through their set, which reached its climax with the bombastic single “Birmingham” off their debut album O’ Be Joyful.
After a short break, Dawes walked out to loud applause, immediately kicking into “Most People,” which boasts a memorably bouncy riff that opens up into a breezy jam. That led to the classic rock of “If I Wanted Someone” and “Someone Will,” the latter of which comes off 2013’s Stories Don’t End.
“Someone Will” was driven by a rambling groove from bassist Wylie Gebler, but the Chet Atkins-esque quitar flourishes drove home the Americana influences of the band. Goldsmith and Mills traded turns on their guitars, each going in a different direction before heading back to the meeting point.
Mills took the spotlight for a moment by playing his single “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me,” breaking out into a seemingly effortless guitar solo midway thru.
And really, that expert musicianship was a running theme during the show. Mills and Goldsmith were consistently mind-bending on their respective guitars. But Griffin Goldsmith (Taylor’s brother) knew just when to punch up his drums with the crash of a cymbal or pop of a woodblock, and keyboardist Tay Strathairn took the lead when needed, especially on the jazzy “From a Window Seat.”
Their collective talents were truly displayed during “When My Time Comes,” a climax that had everyone in attendance wailing along with Taylor Goldsmith and raising their arms in triumph.
No Dawes show – especially one in L.A. – would be complete without their ode to the city, “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” and fittingly, they came out with it for the encore.
“You got that special kind of sadness / You got that tragic set of charms / That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles / Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms,” Goldsmith sang, causing couples to nuzzle in close.
For those who had never seen Dawes before, Friday’s show was a solid representation of their catalog and infallible artistry. And for those who had seen the band before, the event was an enthusiastic way to welcome them back.
For more information, visit Dawes’ official website.