Dave Rawlings Machine, Showbox at the Market, February 14, 2010: Once upon a time, I used to see bands--plural--and not just a few groupings of select musicians. I won't presume any reasoning will suffice, but I'll try to point out that these favored artists have a way of keeping things interesting. They change up their sets to varying degrees and have a way of springing surprises. The Dave Rawlings Machine, while highlighting the album they're ostensibly promoting, revealed a couple of tricks up their sleeves at their show in Seattle.
Aiding and abetting their efforts were the Old Crow trio, as they had been for the duration of this tour, but they picked up another accomplice on this swing: Benmont Tench. It might be disingenuous for me to call Benmont's arrival unexpected, considering how often I've seen these players in combination, but his presence helped assuage the anguish--if "anguish" is the right word when I've already been so spoiled by their appearances--I felt over missing them (and even more friends) at the Fillmore the week before. By way of an introduction, Dave explained that he just likes to hear Benmont play, but the crowd around me, I venture, would've been on board with the addition, regardless of Dave's endorsement.
For all of Dave's kind words, though, Benmont wasn't exempt from abiding by the headliner's whims. Tonight, it meant he'd be subjected to one of the songs more often associated with his day job: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." To his credit, he fully committed to the ride.
This song, among others, anchored the show's Valentine's Day theme. As Dave and Gillian noted early on, the old-time tunes and murder ballads they know so well aren't exactly conducive to the celebration. As proof, they shared a sliver of their vast knowledge of the genre, listing a couple rules of thumb if you find yourself in a traditional composition and want to survive:
- Don't go for a walk by a river.
- Don't date anyone named Willie.
In the spirit of the day, they gave us a truncated version of "Banks of the Ohio," called off before the events turned bloody, thus limiting the song to exactly one verse. As an antidote, they launched into their own romantic piece--singular--though Dave had to jog Gillian's memory as to what it could be ("My Dear Someone," for those playing along at home).
One of the biggest questions for me going into this gig had to do with how the audience would react to the Rawlings Machine and vice versa. Certainly, I knew the musicians would receive nothing less than a warm reception and put on nothing short of a fun show. But after taking in Largo's ragtag dress rehearsals, the Great American Music Hall's kinetic anticipation, or the Fillmore's outright hero worship (under Gillian's name) last October, I was curious to find out if this setting would distinguish itself.
The show got off to a solid, if polite start, but the acclaim grew louder as the night proceeded, to the point where the musicians were called back for three encores in all. Every time they polished off a song I thought they couldn't possibly follow ("Go to Sleep Little Baby"--performed a cappella, of course, and punctuated by Gillian's hand claps and finger snaps--and "The Weight," both in four-part harmony), the audience convinced them to come back again.
At the very end, Dave implied they had exhausted their store of love songs but managed to come up with their last serenade of the evening. They chose well--I love Dave and Gillian's way with a ballad as much as the next person, but I'll gladly take the rush of "Jackson," as we heard tonight, any day.
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