Thursday 7 November 2019

LIVE: Dawes at Islington Assembly Hall (4/11/19)

It's been exactly three years since Dawes were last over in the UK, playing a trio of shows to promote fifth album We're All Gonna Die. I saw them at the Islington Assembly Hall at the time, and found out during the show that they were playing an acoustic set at Rough Trade the following afternoon. Cue a spontaneous decision to travel back to London the next day, obviously. I also found out about a Sofar Sounds show they were playing and somehow managed to get into that too, and it became a really dreamy couple of days following a band I love around London. I've spent much of the time since eagerly awaiting their return, particularly after they released Passwords last Summer. Fast forward three years and I find myself in the exact same venue, watching them exactly three years to the day - I approve of the synchronicity. I wasn't planning to review the show, and spent much of the evening in a combined state of sleepy (I'd travelled to the gig straight from work) and in awe, but considering the rarity of a London show for the band, a write-up feels deserved. 

With ten years as a band under their belts, what always excites me about seeing Dawes live is how much they are genuinely enjoying themselves up on the stage. You most certainly should not go to a Dawes gig if you're hoping to watch them play their albums exactly as they are on record. Instead, expect SO much more. Enigmatic and endearing frontman Taylor Goldsmith provides vocal variations to keep the audience on their toes, and a procession of wild guitar solos as he jams with bassist Wylie Gelber, drummer Griffin Goldsmith and Lee Pardini on keys. As somebody with very little musical skill myself, it's impossible not to be in awe of the band through these instrumental sections, skirting the line between it seeming completely effortless, and as if they are giving the performance every ounce of energy. 

Beyond the music itself, the lyrics of Dawes, mostly the work of frontman Taylor, are pieces of poetical wonder. He manages to blend sadness and humour beautifully, drawing from real life experiences, relatable scenarios and contemporary issues. While quite simple, one of the lyrical highlights for me is the closing track All Your Favorite Bands, where the crowd prove their worth with a powerful singalong. The title track to album four, it's a kind of romantic ode to a lover, a friend, anybody that you care about, exploring various ways in which you could tell them just that, and settling on "may all your favourite bands stay together." I absolutely adore the sentiment.

Elsewhere in the set, the crowd singalong throughout, but most fervently for the likes of When My Time Comes, Somewhere Along The Way and A Little Bit Of Everything. With six albums to choose from, the setlist (which changes between shows, offering the band the opportunity to cycle through rarely played tracks alongside the favourites) actually manages to touch fairly equally on all albums, giving fans a real snapshot of the progression of the last ten years. Even without my favourite track (I Can't Think About It Now - I simply adore the instrumental section in it, it's one of my favourite tracks ever because of it) it was probably my favourite Dawes set that I've seen. A completely magnificent return to London. Now, perhaps not a three year wait for the next one? Fingers crossed!

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