The Los Angeles based Dawes brought their folk rock sound and rich lyrics to music fans in Toronto on Friday night. On a night (St. Patrick’s Day) every year that reminds us of how long winter can be or sometimes just how close we really are to spring, Dawes had it feeling like the middle of road-trip season. With lyrics and sounds that bring us down south, or to the warm climate of California, it was hard not to drift off into daydreaming about the summer months.
Their summer includes an appearance at the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in Montreal that will surely feel right at home in the heat of early August. On this particular night Dawes took us on a warm journey. There were no openers and it’s something lead vocalist and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith addressed early on. “We decided to leave the openers at home tonight, so that we can have more time with you guys…now we can get away with playing two full sets”. Their intention was seen through, as the band played approximately two and a half hours with a brief intermission halfway through.
They kicked off the night with the song One Of Us, the opening track off their latest release We’re All Gonna Die and followed up with Fire Away and From A Window Seat. The next song on the set was another from We’re All Gonna Die titled Picture Of A Man, which featured drummer Griffin Goldsmith playing a large cooking pot. You know, the one your grandmother cooks the mother lode of mashed potatoes in for Thanksgiving dinner. They then followed up with one of their most recognizable tracks, the opening track off their debut album North Hills, That Western Skyline.
Dawes then played a few tracks off their most recent albums, When The Tequila Runs Out, Right On Time (from 2015’s All Your Favorite Bands) and Less Than Five Miles Away. Those songs were followed up by a personal favourite of mine, A Little Bit Of Everything. A song that features some beautiful opening piano and lyrics that create imagery with ease, it also closes out their brilliant 2011 album Nothing Is Wrong. Next up was Somewhere Along The Way, followed up by the final song of their first set When My Time Comes. The latter being the biggest sing along of the night to that point. By the time the first set had wrapped up I had already grown a massive new appreciation for Dawes. Their vocal harmonies were impressive and the musicianship was spot on. It was hard to believe that they had only played half of their show at this point. I was in awe by how captivating they were live.
The second set started off with Taylor Goldsmith with an acoustic guitar being flanked by his brother Griffin to his right and keyboardist Lee Pardini to his left. They started off with Love Is All I Am, Taylor shared an anecdote about where the song came from. He stated that he began writing the song when he started seeing a girl, and then didn’t revisit it until she had left his life six months later, which is why the song seems to take a turn in the third verse. Griffin then took over lead vocals for the song Roll Tide, another from We’re All Gonna Die as another member joined them on stage. Finally the fifth band member joined them back on stage for a stripped down version of Hey Lover from Stories Don’t End. The vocal harmonies echoed so beautifully through The Opera House, it was some of the best vocal harmonization I’ve witnessed live. Grizzly Bear at Massey Hall in 2012 is probably still the front runner for that title.
After their brief rearrangement, the band assumed their regular positions and rolled through Quitter and Coming Back To A Man before the new biggest sing-along of the night (not for long though) Most People, from their 2013 release Stories Don’t End. By this point the crowd was deeply in tune with the band. You could feel the energy between performer and audience growing stronger with each song for the remainder of the night. They then played Roll With The Punches followed by If I Wanted Someone. The momentum continued with one of their most well-known tracks, Things Happen. It was followed up with From The Right Angle, and then a brief cover of Still Gonna Die by Shel Silverstein which was their segue into the title track from their 2016 album We’re All Gonna Die. It was the last song of their set before returning for the encore.
For the encore Dawes started out with Time Spent In Los Angeles, which was received very warmly by the crowd. By this point it seemed that everyone inside the sold-out Opera House was singing along. Wondering to myself what could be a better way to end the show than this, they pulled out the title track of their 2015 album, All Your Favourite Bands. A song that truly took over. Start to finish everyone there was right in tune with every word of the song, it finished off with the audience completing the final lyrics of the song alone “I hope the world sees the same person that you always were to me, and may all your favourite bands stay together”, It was topped off with an a capella reprise of the main chorus lead by Taylor Goldsmith. “I hope that life without a chaperone is what you thought it’d be, I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever. I hope the world sees the same person that you always were to me and may all your favourite bands stay together”. The crowd roared as they said farewell before disappearing backstage.
Overall it was a fantastic performance. The vocal harmonies, musicianship and sing-alongs created a beautiful atmosphere inside The Opera House. Combine that with the fact that they played twenty four songs over the span of two and half hours, complete with bonus breakdowns and jam sessions in multiple songs and it’s hard to imagine anyone felt they didn’t get what they came for. I look forward to the next time they play in Toronto, I’ve certainly been won over by their live performance after Friday night’s show and will be at the next one in a heartbeat.