Concert review: The Dave Rawlings Machine


This is the second time that I’ve seen Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings and it’s the second time that they’ve surprised the heck out of me. When I saw them as a duo in 2003, I was expecting a quiet little folk show. I had no idea that Rawlings was such a rock star on his acoustic guitar or how great their voices sound together.

This time around,  I knew it would be a good show, but they surprised me again. This was a string band show. It was a revival meeting. It was a sing a long. It was was like something from the grand ol opry in 1965. They were clearly having fun playing this music. Rawlings and Welch were nothing but smiles all night.

You can see from the photo above that they dress in a certain, old time way. As superficial as that is, it set the mood for me. Secondly,  everyone on the stage was supremely talented but Rawlings,  holy crap! Not enough people talk about what an amazing guitarist he is.

I knew maybe half of the songs they played. I have several Welch cd’s and now need to buy the Machine records.

After absorbing the show, I could clearly see their musical influences. Rawlings’ playing style has some Garcia in it but at the same time,  it’s his own unique sound. I’d love to hear this band tackle Cassidy.

Their choice of covers was very telling. I Hear Them All melded into This Land is Your Land and turned into a big sing a long. Cortez the Killer was ominous and fantastic. Then they did Queen Jane Approximately and completely blew me away. I’ve heard the Dylan song a hundred times. I’ve seen the Grateful Dead play it at least five times. I’ve never heard it played like this. They really made this song their own. So even though their influences were clear, they have created their own,  original sound.

Rawlings also played a snippet of Allman Brothers in the middle of a song. I think it was Midnight Rider but can’t remember. They did Miss Ohio for one of their encore songs and that turned into another sing a long (note to the guy standing behind us,  when singing at a concert,  pretend you’re in the chorus and not doing a solo).

Just when you think the show might be over,  they tore into The Weight,  which seemed only fitting,  since The Band practically invented this type of Americana music,  along with The Grateful Dead and a few others. And this seems like a good time to mention their harmonies, which were on display all night and particularly stood out on this song. There were three very strong voices on the stage and for The Weight,  the bass player chimed in and made it four. Their voices melded together so well that they rivaled CSN in their prime.

November 5th concert magic strikes again.  You could go to concerts in Buffalo for the next 10 years and you’d be hard pressed to find a better performance.


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