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Dawes takes Madrid Theatre crowd on a retro-folk journey

Taylor Goldsmith and Dawes performed Tuesday at the Madrid Theatre.
Taylor Goldsmith and Dawes performed Tuesday at the Madrid Theatre. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Dawes’ songs are so crafted, polished and appealing that the music often eclipses the lyrics, which are typically filled with poetic details and romantic sentiments.

Tuesday night at the Madrid Theatre, the Los Angeles band put on its usual warm, pristine performance, one filled with sweet melodies, lockstep harmonies and high-quality musicianship.

Dawes is now a five-piece with the addition of guitarist Duane Betts, son of former Allman Brother Dickey Betts. Taylor Goldsmith, the band’s theatric frontman, shared the spotlight generously with his band mates, including younger brother Griffin, the band’s drummer, who applied harmonies and occasional lead vocals.

Dawes’ music sounds as if it were born in the early 1970s, drawing comparisons to Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Band, Jackson Browne and others. The band is touring on its new album, “All Your Favorite Bands,” released in June, which sustains that retro-folk vibe; it played six of the album’s nine songs.

Three of those opened the show: “Things Happen,” a forlorn ballad about accepting life’s lumps and bruises and moving on: “I don’t know what else you wanted me to say to you / Things happen, that’s all they ever do”; “Don’t Send Me Away,” a bubbly electric-folk song with a Stephen Bishop vibe; and “Somewhere Along the Way,” which sounds like an homage to Browne and his “Late for the Sky” days.

The new songs dovetailed cleanly with previous material, which goes back to the band’s debut album, “North Hills,” released in 2009. The crowd of nearly 500 was familiar with it all, giving big ovations to older songs like “That Western Skyline,” “Most People,” “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” “From a Window Seat” and “When My Time Comes,” which ignited a rousing singalong.

Dawes could be a fantastic jam band if it chose to be; instead, it keeps its instrumentals brief. Goldsmith and Betts both colored songs with vibrant leads and fills, and, on piano, Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes, Tay Strathairn revived the old-school sounds of legends like Spooner Oldham and the Band’s Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson.

The set list included a worthwhile cover of the Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues.” And the show’s opener, John Moreland, came out and joined Dawes on two of his songs, including the lovely “Oh Julia.”

Dawes closed with the new album’s title track, a wistful elegy drenched in melody and harmonies and delivered with hope and good wishes: “Ain’t it funny how some people pop into your head so easily / I haven’t seen you in there for so long … I hope the world sees the same person that you’ve always been to me / And may all your favorite bands stay together.”

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

SET LIST

Things Happen; Don’t Send Me Away; Somewhere Along the Way; Bear Witness; That Western Skyline; Fire Away; Right on Time; If I Wanted Someone; Fisherman’s Blues; I Can’t Think About It Now; I Need You to Tell Me Who I Am; Oh Julia; A Little Bit of Everything; Most People; When My Time Comes; The Right Angle; Time Spent in Los Angeles; From a Window Seat; All Your Favorite Bands.

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