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Live Review: Dawes at Minneapolis’ Varsity Theater (12/30)

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    Last night’s Dawes show was the first of two back-to-back appearances in Minneapolis that will also include a concert on New Year’s Eve. Not even two months after their last blowout performance in the Twin Cities, this show at the Varsity Theater was, admittedly, anticlimactic. In the band’s defense, it’s hard to top a homecoming double-header with Blitzen Trapper, especially in a smaller venue playing with lesser-known local bands. It’s possible they were saving their energy for the onset of 2012 (which, if they keep the same set list, should fall appropriately on “When My Time Comes”). Fortunately, openers Red Daughters and Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps made up for it by making the most of their time in the spotlight. And even when Dawes plays a subpar show, they still set the bar pretty high.

    Minneapolis countrified psychedelic blues rockers Red Daughters almost stole the show with a tight, energetic set that infused the standard instrumental rock setup with the chutzpah of ‘70s fantasy arena rock (and reality, for that matter, but I’ve got Stillwater in mind). A Van Morrison guitar riff lent jazzy overtones to “Into the Night”, while on “Cool Guy”, singing drummer Mark Hanson smoothly growled, “Your friends think they know me/Better than I know my fuckin’ self,” enunciating the expletive against a calculated silence before breaking down like The E Street Band on “Adam Raised A Cain”.

    Follower Caroline Smith and her backing band, The Good Night Sleeps, took a decidedly different approach. Smith—whose rounded, hiccupping quaver sounds like Thao and Mirah’s love child and/or the female version of Youth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers—first turned heads with 2008’s Backyard Tent Set, an album of banjo-strummed breakup songs. While The Goodnight Sleeps played mostly new songs, fans responded best to older lines like, “I’m losing myself dreaming of you.” Electric, ragtime-y “Denim Boy” was the best of the new material, with Smith scat-ing accusations against a “pal” and “kid” who’s done her wrong.

    dawes2 Live Review: Dawes at Minneapolis Varsity Theater (12/30)

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    Even though Dawes doesn’t vary its set list much between shows, the band always makes an effort to reach into its back catalog of influences for a few covers. This time, drummer Griffin Goldsmith led the band on a cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”, emphasizing the song’s guitar work instead of the original, more melancholy pianos. When Taylor Goldsmith sang Neil Young’s line, “So I stop when I can, find some fried eggs and country ham, I’ll find somewhere where they don’t care who I am,” you hear the direct inspiration behind songs like Dawes’ “Little Bit of Everything”, in which a man finds solace in a buffet line. Goldsmith’s version of “Albuquerque”, along with guitar solos on tracks like fire-and-brimstone “If I Wanted Someone” that segue without missing a beat into folk ballad “That Western Skyline”, remind me that Goldsmith is one of the best guitarists of our generation. Not only that, he’s got a sense of humor, too: When he leaped into a false start on “When My Time Comes”, he apologized, “I’m sorry, that was a bad joke. I shouldn’t have done that to you.”

    Setlist:
    Fire Away
    Bedside Manner
    Coming Back To a Man
    Jealous Guy
    So Well
    The Way You Laugh
    If I Wanted Someone
    That Western Skyline
    Albuquerque
    When My Time Comes
    Peace in the Valley
    A Little Bit of Everything
    Time Spent in Los Angeles
    Encore:
    If You Let Me Be Your Anchor
    How Far We’ve Come
    ——

    caroline Live Review: Dawes at Minneapolis Varsity Theater (12/30)

    dawes4 Live Review: Dawes at Minneapolis Varsity Theater (12/30)

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