Dawes at the Savannah Music Festival — a short review

Who doesn’t like Dawes?

As Jim Reed said in his excellent preview of the quartet’s Savannah Music Festival performance in Do Savannah, Dawes has become known for “meticulously crafted, emotion-drenched, country-tinged, everyman-inspired ‘classic rock’ songwriting epitomized by the likes of Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison and The Band.” (UPDATE: Click here for Jim’s review of the show.)


But I arrived at Trustees Theater on Sunday night expecting the live show — the SMF gig was the band’s Savannah debut — to be a lot like the recorded tracks. Beautiful, but occasionally a little somber.

The first surprise was the 5th person on stage — guitarist Duane Betts, who brought an unexpected energy to the show. The next surprise came with the opening number, “That Western Skyline,” which frontman Taylor Goldsmith sang with more edge than the somewhat wistful recorded version.

And that was a sign of things to come, as the band tore through a 2 hour set that breathed fresh, urgent life into the group’s already-strong songs.

Goldsmith said just enough to express his pleasure at palying Savannah for the first time, but the pace of the show never slowed. Some of the most effective moments came when drummer Griffin Goldsmith was singing too — the brothers’ voices work beautifully together. Keyboardist Tay Strathairn and bassist Wylie Gelber were also even better live than I imagined from the recorded work, though I sure wish Strathairn hadn’t been buried stage right in the midst of his instruments — sometimes he was completely obscured from view of the seats down front.

I was especially impressed by the gripping rendition of “A Little Bit of Everything”, “Time Spent in Los Angeles”, and “If I Wanted Someone”, but there wasn’t a weak moment in the set.


The rapt crowd at Trustees stayed in their seats for most of the show — the space sort of dictates that most shows are “sit down” ones — but a group of jubilant dancers moved down front at the end. The encore began with an especially entertaining cover of Warren Zevon’s “The Hula Hula Boys” — a great choice to finish a fantastic concert.