A few songs into Friday’s performance, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith made reference to “the make-up show debacle.” Back in September 2021, you see, the band had to cancel a sold-out Saturday show at the Orpheum with about an hour to spare due to COVID within the band, and the rescheduled Tuesday performance a month later played to a house less than half full. But if Dawes still feels sheepish about it — and if Roadrunner still wasn’t sold out even with St. Patrick’s Day to prime the pump — it didn’t filter into the nearly 2½-hour, two-set show.
Then again, maybe a need to make amends helped fueled the band’s fire. Nodding to the holiday by taking the stage to an Irish reel and green stage lighting, Dawes opened with the loose but charged Allman Brothers groove of “Ghost in the Machine,” bringing it to a close with a brontosaurian riff before segueing directly into “One of Us.” That song had its own brontosaurian riff, a hair friskier, which set up the mile-wide triumph that poured up into the sky by the time it was over.
Despite the amount of ground the band covered and the amount of time it had to cover it, it seemed like Dawes had no musical influences that extended beyond the death of disco. The aforementioned Allmans inspiration also popped up in the slithery “Coming Back to a Man,” while the high bass probings and icy piano pings of the majestic space-rock “Sound That No One Made/Doomscroller Sunrise” offered a different kind of exploration. Jackson Browne could have penned “Crack the Case” and the heftier “Somewhere Along the Way,” the multi-part “Someone Else’s Cafe/Doomscroller Tries to Relax” was punctuated with Weather Report-ish jazzy blurts and “Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?” sounded like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers playing late-’70s Billy Joel.
Goldsmith’s leads possessed a pealing, Santana-like tone while Trevor Menear’s guitar work was more slippery and subtle, and keyboardist Lee Pardini played his “Feed the Fire” organ solo as much for the percussion of the notes as for the notes themselves. And “From a Window Seat” was an existential airplane song with a train-track rhythm thanks in part to Griffin Goldsmith’s drums, which provided ever-shifting underpinnings to the songs.
Even with the propensity for instrumental showcasing, Dawes never lost sight of the fact that its stock in trade is songs and not jams. “A Little Bit of Everything” flowed with pathos and strength, while the gentle and accepting “Things Happen” closed the show with just Taylor Goldsmith solo with an acoustic guitar. Solo, that is, except for the low murmur of the audience singing along as the singer brought Dawes’s long-awaited apology show to an end.
Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @spacecitymarc
Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter @spacecitymarc.