The Head and the Heart

I was expecting a battle of the bands when one of my favorites, Dawes, opened for The Head and the Heart at the Santa Barbara Bowl on August 18, 2022. Both bands were formed in 2009; Dawes has released eight albums (including Misadventures of Doomscroller last month) and H&H five (including Every Shade of Blue in April). But Dawes’s hits (defined by airplay on the Spectrum channel) came early in their career, while H&H’s successes have been building, which likely accounted for their order on the bill.

In the event, it wasn’t much of a contest: Dawes came across as the kids on the block, while H&H were the real thing. For starters, Dawes’s new songs (including “Ghost in The Machine,” “Someone Else’s Cafe” and “Comes in Waves”) were a letdown. The storytelling was a bit labored and the melodies dragged. They segued into “Time Spent in Los Angeles” for their second number and pleased me with other hits, including “Things Happen,” “When My Time Comes” and”All Your Favorite Bands” (with help from H&H members), but I missed their classic, “A Little Bit of Everything,” that I had heard them perform both in Minneapolis and at the Lobero. Beyond the choice of music, Dawes’s appearance was unimpressive. There was little interaction among the five members, who stood randomly onstage; the bass player looked a stranger to the group, and lead singer Taylor Goldsmith bounced around goofily. And while I don’t expect hip rockers to emulate the uniforms of Rod Stewart, Dawes’s bland T-shirts stood in contrast to the collared shirts sported by all members of H&H.

When The Head and the Heart took the stage, after an inexplicable 50-minute intermission, the level of professionalism soared. The six members lined up in two rows of three and appeared purposefully engaged. An ever bigger difference was the sound. Somehow – was there a synthesizer or other electronic enhancement? – the Bowl was suddenly full of sound, and it never let up. I was worried that the mellow songs of H&H wouldn’t translate to an arena, but the energy and volume easily carried the day, even on my favorite, “Let’s Be Still.” I didn’t realize how much of H&H’s catalogue I knew, but everything they played in their 90-minute set had a familiar feel, and everything sounded good.

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